Letter | Published:

The Electrification of Air

Nature volume 50, page 296 | Download Citation



As attention is called to this subject by the paper, by Lord Kelvin and Mr. Magnus Maclean, in NATURE for July 19 (p. 280), it may be worth while to point out that two distinct questions, which it is important should not be confused, arise as to the electrification of air. The first question is whether an electric charge can be given to a quantity of dust-free air? In other words, whether a gas can get into a condition in which it can carry a charge of electricity? The evidence derived from the electrification observed in vacuum tubes, &c., seems almost conclusive in favour of an affirmative answer to this question, which is the one considered by Lord Kelvin. The second and quite different question is whether this electrification of the gas is possible unless some of the gas is in a special state, such, for example, as would be produced if some of the molecules were split up into atoms? To adopt a definite theory, for the sake of putting the question clearly: Is the electricity in the charged gas carried by molecules or atoms?

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Author information


  1. Cambridge, July 20.

    • J. J. THOMSON


  1. Search for J. J. THOMSON in:

About this article

Publication history





By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.