Research Article | Published:

The Structure of the Atom1

Nature volume 112, pages 2944 (07 July 1923) | Download Citation



THE GENERAL PICTURE OF THE ATOM. THE present state of atomic theory is characterised by the fact that we not only believe the existence of atoms to be proved beyond a doubt, butalso we even believe that we have an intimate knowledge of the constituents of the individual atoms. I cannot on this occasion give a survey ofthe scientific developments that have led to this result; I will only recall the discovery of the electron towards the close of the last century, which furnished the direct verification and led to a conclusive formulation of the conception of the atomic nature of electricity which had evolved since the discovery by Faraday of the fundamental laws of electrolysis and Berzelius's electrochemical theory, and had its greatest triumph in the electrolytic dissociation theory of Arrhenius. This discovery of the electron and elucidation of its properties was the result of the work of a large number of investigators, among whom Lenard and J. J. Thomson may be particularly mentioned. The latter especially has made very important contributions to our subject by his ingenious attempts to develop ideas about atomic constitution on the basis of the electron theory. The present state of our knowledge of the elements of atomic structure was reached, however, by the discovery of the atomic nucleus, which we owe to Rutherford, whose work on the radioactive substances discovered towards the close of the last century has much enriched physical and chemical science.

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