Books  General Natural History  History of Science 

A History of the Electron: J. J. and G. P. Thomson

Biography / Memoir
  • The first book to bring together the biographies of the father-and-son physicists, J. J. and G. P. Thomson, with a focus on the significance of the electron in their work
  • Clear language that is free from unnecessary technicalities makes this accessible to the non-scientist
  • Systematically describes a key episode in the British reception of quantum physics in the early twentieth century

By: Jaume Navarro(Author)

208 pages, 12 b/w illustrations

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Sep 2012 | #199977 | ISBN-13: 9781107005228
Temporarily out of stock: order now to get this when available Details
NHBS Price: £92.99 $120/€102 approx

About this book

Two landmarks in the history of physics are the discovery of the particulate nature of cathode rays (the electron) by J. J. Thomson in 1897 and the experimental demonstration by his son G. P. Thomson in 1927 that the electron exhibits the properties of a wave. Together, the Thomsons are two of the most significant figures in modern physics, both winning Nobel prizes for their work. A History of the Electron presents the intellectual biographies of the father-and-son physicists, shedding new light on their combined understanding of the nature of electrons and, by extension, of the continuous nature of matter. It is the first text to explore J. J. Thomson's early and later work, as well as the role he played in G. P. Thomson's education as a physicist and how he reacted to his son's discovery of electron diffraction. This fresh perspective will interest academics and graduate students working in the history of early twentieth-century physics.

"[...] a scholarly and readable account of developments that underlie modern chemistry [...] Navarro's thoughtful narrative should appeal to both historians and chemists."
- Chemistry World



1. The early years in Manchester and Cambridge
2. J. J. Thomson's early work in Cambridge: a continuous and all-embracing physics
3. The ether and the corpuscle: from waves to particles
4. On creeds and policies: the corpuscular theory of matter
5. Father and son. Old and new physics
6. The electron in Aberdeen: from particle to wave


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Jaume Navarro is Ikerbasque Research Professor at the University of the Basque Country. He trained in physics, philosophy and the history of science and has an international research record having spent several years at the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science and the University of Exeter.

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