Book Reviews

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

Jaume Navarro

Cambridge University Press, 2012; $80.00 (hardcover).


Navarro’s short book details the lives of J.J. Thomson and his son G.P. Thomson and their seminal discoveries regarding the electron. J.J. discovered the electron and G.P. demonstrated its wave properties by electron diffraction. Both became Nobel laureates for their experimental works. This piece will appeal to anyone with an interest in the history of modern science. The author explores the intellectual development of these two scientists and the roles of research institutions, colleagues and prevalent theories on their scientific progress. This story explains J.J. Thomson’s persistent reliance on ingrained theories of the ether as a continuous medium and a total disregard for the new developments in quantum theory in the history of physics. Unfortunately, the chapters on G.P. Thompson are too brief. The book bridges Maxwell’s work on electromagnetic theory to Bohr’s work on atomic theory, as well as the works of de Broglie and the emergence of quantum mechanics. The cited papers should be read to augment the concise text.
 

Review by Barry R. Masters, Fellow of AAAS, OSA and SPIE. He is with the department of biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., U.S.A.
 
The opinions expressed in the book review section are those of the reviewer and do not necessarily reflect those of OPN or OSA.


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