In the mid to late 1890s, J. J. Thomson and colleagues at Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory conducted experiments on "cathode rays" (a form of radiation produced within evacuated glass vessels subjected to electric fields)--the results of which some historians later viewed as the "discovery" of the electron. This book is both a biography of the electron and a history of the microphysical world that it opened up.
The book is organized in four parts. The first part, Corpuscles and Electrons, considers the varying accounts of Thomson's role in the experimental production of the electron. The second part, What Was the Newborn Electron Good For?, examines how scientists used the new entity in physical and chemical investigations. The third part, Electrons Applied and Appropriated, explores the accommodation, or lack thereof, of the electron in nuclear physics, chemistry, and electrical science. It follows the electron's gradual progress from cathode ray to ubiquitous subatomic particle and eponymous entity in one of the world's most successful industries--electronics. The fourth part, Philosophical Electrons, considers the role of the electron in issues of instrumentalism, epistemology, and realism. The electron, it turns out, can tell us a great deal about how science works.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments Contributors Introduction 1
I Corpuscles and Electrons 1
J. J. Thomson and the Electron, 1897-1899 21
2 Corpuscles to Electrons 77
3 The Questionable Matter of Electricity: The Reception of J. J. Thomson's "Corpuscle" among Electrical Theorists and Technologists 101
4 Paul Villard, J. J. Thomson, and the Composition of Cathode Rays 135
II What Was the Newborn Electron Good For?
5 The Zeeman Effect and the Discovery of the Electron 171
6 The Electron, the Protyle, and the Unity of Matter 195
7 O. W. Richardson and the Electron Theory of Matter, 1901-1916 227
8 Electron Gas Theory of Metals: Free Electrons in Bulk Matter 255
III Electrons Applied and Appropriated
9 The Electron and the Nucleus 307
10 The Electron, the Hole, and the Transistor 327
11 Remodeling a Classic: The Electron in Organic Chemistry, 1900-1940 339
12 The Physicists' Electron and Its Appropriation by the Chemists 363
IV Philosophical Electrons
13 Who Really Discovered the Electron? 403
14 History and Metaphysics: On the Reality of Spin 425
15 What Should Philosophers of Science Learn from the History of the Electron? 451
16 The Role of Theory in the Use of Instruments; or, How Much Do We Need to Know about Electrons to Do Science with an Electron Microscope? 467