J J Thomson's Cathode Ray Tube, 1897.
4 0 c m
actual image size: 21cm x 32cm

J J Thomson's Cathode Ray Tube, 1897.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Detail. This apparatus was used to discover the electron. In 1896, in Cambridge, Joseph John Thomson (1856-1940) began experiments on cathode rays. In Britain, physicists argued these rays were particles, but German physicists disagreed, thinking they were a type of electromagnetic radiation. Thomson showed that the cathode rays were particles with a negative charge and much smaller than an atom. He published this information in April 1897; the particles were later named electrons.

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