Who Really Discovered the Electron?

Peter Achinstein

in The Book of Evidence

Published in print October 2001 | ISBN: 9780195143898
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199833023 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Science

 Who Really Discovered the Electron?

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Although J.J. Thomson is credited with the discovery of the electron on the basis of his experiments with cathode rays in 1897, various physicists, including William Crookes, Arthur Schuster, Philipp Lenard, and others, who had also conducted cathode ray experiments claimed that they deserved the credit. This chapter provides a general definition of discovery that can be used to help resolve the question, which, as it turns out, is a complex philosophical and historical one. The relationship between discovery and evidence, as well as what's so important about who discovered the electron, are issues also discussed in the present chapter.

Keywords: Crookes; discovery; electron; evidence; Lenard; Schuster; scientific discovery; J.J. Thomson; Thomson

Chapter.  11769 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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