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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Outline milestones in the development of modern atomic theory
  • Summarize and interpret the results of the experiments of Thomson, Millikan, and Rutherford
  • Describe the three subatomic particles that compose atoms
  • Define isotopes and give examples for several elements

In the two centuries since Dalton developed his ideas, scientists have made significant progress in furthering our understanding of atomic theory. Much of this came from the results of several seminal experiments that revealed the details of the internal structure of atoms. Here, we will discuss some of those key developments, with an emphasis on application of the scientific method, as well as understanding how the experimental evidence was analyzed. While the historical persons and dates behind these experiments can be quite interesting, it is most important to understand the concepts resulting from their work.

Atomic theory after the nineteenth century

If matter were composed of atoms, what were atoms composed of? Were they the smallest particles, or was there something smaller? In the late 1800s, a number of scientists interested in questions like these investigated the electrical discharges that could be produced in low-pressure gases, with the most significant discovery made by English physicist J. J. Thomson using a cathode ray tube. This apparatus consisted of a sealed glass tube from which almost all the air had been removed; the tube contained two metal electrodes. When high voltage was applied across the electrodes, a visible beam called a cathode ray appeared between them. This beam was deflected toward the positive charge and away from the negative charge, and was produced in the same way with identical properties when different metals were used for the electrodes. In similar experiments, the ray was simultaneously deflected by an applied magnetic field, and measurements of the extent of deflection and the magnetic field strength allowed Thomson to calculate the charge-to-mass ratio of the cathode ray particles. The results of these measurements indicated that these particles were much lighter than atoms ( [link] ).

Figure A shows a photo of J. J. Thomson working at a desk. Figure B shows a photograph of a cathode ray tube. It is a long, glass tube that is narrow at the left end but expands into a large bulb on the right end. The entire cathode tube is sitting on a wooden stand. Figure C shows the parts of the cathode ray tube. The cathode ray tube consists of a cathode and an anode. The cathode, which has a negative charge, is located in a small bulb of glass on the left side of the cathode ray tube. To the left of the cathode it says “High voltage” and indicates a positive and negative charge. The anode, which has a positive charge, is located to the right of the cathode. Two charged plates are located to the right of the anode, and are connected to a battery and two magnets. The magnets are labeled “S” and “N.” A cathode ray is generated from the cathode, travels through the anode and into a wider part of the cathode ray tube, where it travels between a positively charged electrode plate and a negatively charged electrode plate. The ray bends upward and continues to travel until it hits the wide part of the tube on the right. The rightmost end of the tube contains a printed scale that allows one to measure how much the ray was deflected.
(a) J. J. Thomson produced a visible beam in a cathode ray tube. (b) This is an early cathode ray tube, invented in 1897 by Ferdinand Braun. (c) In the cathode ray, the beam (shown in yellow) comes from the cathode and is accelerated past the anode toward a fluorescent scale at the end of the tube. Simultaneous deflections by applied electric and magnetic fields permitted Thomson to calculate the mass-to-charge ratio of the particles composing the cathode ray. (credit a: modification of work by Nobel Foundation; credit b: modification of work by Eugen Nesper; credit c: modification of work by “Kurzon”/Wikimedia Commons)

Based on his observations, here is what Thomson proposed and why: The particles are attracted by positive (+) charges and repelled by negative (−) charges, so they must be negatively charged (like charges repel and unlike charges attract); they are less massive than atoms and indistinguishable, regardless of the source material, so they must be fundamental, subatomic constituents of all atoms. Although controversial at the time, Thomson’s idea was gradually accepted, and his cathode ray particle is what we now call an electron    , a negatively charged, subatomic particle with a mass more than one thousand-times less that of an atom. The term “electron” was coined in 1891 by Irish physicist George Stoney, from “ electr ic i on .”

Questions & Answers

what is zero gravity
Blessing Reply
every object is that zero gravity
Probably when an object is in space and there are no nearby masses that pull her, and exert gravity
Alright. .good job
And all majesty to God, (وَهُوَ ٱلَّذِی خَلَقَ ٱلَّیۡلَ وَٱلنَّهَارَ وَٱلشَّمۡسَ وَٱلۡقَمَرَۖ كُلࣱّ فِی فَلَكࣲ یَسۡبَحُونَ) [سورة الأنبياء 33 And it is He who created the night and the day and the sun and the moon; all [heavenly bodies] in an orbit are swimming. General theory of relativity in Qur
what is lattice energy
Getrude Reply
why is CO a neutral oxide and CO2 an acidic oxide
Emmanuel Reply
Because when CO2 dissolves in water forming a weak acid. CO does not dissolve in water as it has strong triple bond.
What is acid
Progress Reply
which donate H+ or accept lone pair of electron
kinetic theory of matter and gas law
Victoria Reply
pls explain
what is clay
Thankgod Reply
material containing clay minerals. Clays develop plasticity when wet, due to a molecular film of water surrounding the clay particles, but become hard, brittle and non–plastic upon drying or firing. Most pure clay minerals are white or light-coloured, but natural clays show a variety of colours
due iron oxide. The four types of clay are Earthenware clay, Stoneware clay, Ball clay, and Porcelain. All of them can be used to make pottery, but the end result would differ a lot thanks to their different textures, colors, and flexibilities.
And do you know that god has created human from clay (وَلَقَدۡ خَلَقۡنَا ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ مِن صَلۡصَـٰلࣲ مِّنۡ حَمَإࣲ مَّسۡنُونࣲ) [سورة الحجر 26] And We did certainly create man out of clay from an altered black mud. You can install Quran from paly store for free with translations.
darw a periodic table
Hazard Reply
draw a periodic table
You will arrange the elements into row and coloumns according to increasing proton number. You may want to use symbols or their names. Hydrogen, Helium, etc. God has created all these elements from nothing, in Islam we know God is the creator.
why are you drawing a periodic table? why not just print one from the internet and use as a reference
Great thought
how are you?
Abel Reply
alright , how about you
am fine
your name is Agbo?
my name is amel
l use the email of my husband
Define organic chemistry
Edward Reply
It is the chemistry concerning molecules that have Carbon skeletons and hydrogen atoms. We find organic molecules like in plants, living derivatives, etc.
what's matter
Joshua Reply
Anything that can be to cutting from all dimensions to halve. So you end up with 4 cubes of 5 cm side. Repeat with one of the cubes. 10, 5, 2.5, .., 0 1st 2nd 3rd Nth Un= a(r) ^ n-1
Anything that has mass and can reflect or absorb waves. GOD created everything from nothing only he can destroy it as prooved.
Suppose you have a cube of side 10 cm. Then you start cutting from all dimensions to halve. So you end up with 4 cubes of 5 cm side. Repeat with one of the cubes. 10, 5, 2.5, .., 0 1st 2nd 3rd Nth Un= a(r) ^ n-1 0= 10 (1/2)^n-1 0= (1/2) ^ n-1 Log0= (n-1) Log(1/2) - infinity =( n-1)
matter is anything that has mass,volume and can occupy space
what is electrolysis
Rabi Reply
good equation
differenciate between fat and oil
Mustapha Reply
what is the meaning of coordinate bond
Asmaa Reply
It is the alternative for dative which is a covalent bond but both electrons of the pair are from shared from the same (one) atom.
can someone please tell me what does an Entropy means
Afiwape Reply
what is chemistry?
Archie Reply
what is chemistry
chemistry is a brach of science which deal with the study of the nature, composition structure and with the force that hold the structure together and the change matter will undergo undedifferent conditions
And god has created everything from nothing
Practice Key Terms 6

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Source:  OpenStax, Chemistry. OpenStax CNX. May 20, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11760/1.9
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