Article ID: CBB000641707

From Propagation to Structure: The Experimental Technique of Bombardment as a Contributing Factor to the Emerging Quantum Physics (2003)


I observe that quantum physics emerged at the turn of the last century when physics had shifted its concern from propagation phenomena to questions of structure. This transition materialized with the development of a new experimental technique, the bombardment method. The transition is well exemplified by the move from the experimental studies of Heinrich Hertz to those of Ernest Rutherford, and from those of Heinrich Hertz and Philipp Lenard to those of James Franck and Gustav Hertz. I trace the history of Rutherford's experimental bombardment method as it emerged from nineteenth-century propagation studies. I then demonstrate the use of the bombardment method in another experimental context, namely, in the celebrated experiment of Franck and Hertz. I locate the root of this experiment in Lenard's experimental studies and analyze Franck and Hertz's flawed interpretation of it. I conclude by underlining the crucial role that Bohr's quantum theory of the atom played in helping to establish these bombardment experiments as milestones of modern physics. Keywords: Key words. Heinrich Hertz; Ernest Rutherford; Philipp Lenard; James Franck; Gustav Hertz; Niels Bohr; experimentation; propagation; structure; bombardment; elastic and inelastic collisions; ionization; excitation; Rutherford atom; Franck-Hertz experiment.


Description Traces the experimental studies of Heinrich Hertz, Ernest Rutherford, Philipp Lenard, James Franck, and Gustav Hertz to the work of Niels Bohr.

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Authors & Contributors
Kragh, Helge S.
Sibum, H. Otto
Ianniello, Maria Grazia
Wiederkehr, Karl Heinrich
Morrison, Margaret C.
Mawhin, Jean
Physics in Perspective
European Physical Journal H
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics
Sudhoffs Archiv: Zeitschrift fuer Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
Oxford University Press
Luigi Pellegrini Editore
Atomic, nuclear, and particle physics
Atomic structure
Quantum mechanics
Experiments and experimentation
Controversies and disputes
Bohr, Niels Henrik David
Rutherford, Ernest, 1st Baron
Hertz, Gustav
Franck, James
Einstein, Albert
Stark, Johannes
Time Periods
20th century, early
20th century
19th century
Great Britain
Copenhagen (Denmark)
North America

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