Article ID: CBB000931747

Making Isotopes Matter: Francis Aston and the Mass-Spectrograph (2009)


Hughes, Jeff (Author)

Dynamis: Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam
Volume: 29
Pages: 131--166

Publication Date: 2009
Edition Details: Part of special issue: Isotopes: Science, Technology and Medicine in the Twentieth Century
Language: English

Francis Aston discovered the isotopes of the light elements at the Cavendish Laboratory in 1919 using his newly devised mass-spectrograph. With this device, a modification of the apparatus he had used as J.J. Thomson's lab assistant before the war, Aston was surprised to find that he could elicit isotopes for many of the elements. This work was contested, but Rutherford, recently appointed to head the Cavendish, was a strong supporter of Aston's work, not least because it supported his emergent programme of research into nuclear structure. This paper will explore Aston's work in the context of skilled practice at the Cavendish and in the wider disciplinary contexts of physics and chemistry. Arguing that Aston's work was made significant by Rutherford ---and other constituencies, including chemists and astrophysicists--- it will explore the initial construction of isotopes as scientific objects through their embodiment in material practices. It will also show how the process of constructing isotopes was retrospectively reified by the award to Aston of the 1922 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

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Article Herran, Néstor; Roqué, Xavier (2009) Tracers of Modern Technoscience. Dynamis: Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam (p. 123). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Navarro, Jaume
Kragh, Helge S.
Robotti, Nadia
Rehn, Martin
Campbell, John
Dean, Katrina
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Physics in Perspective
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
British Journal for the History of Science
European Physical Journal H
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
AAS Publications
Atomic, nuclear, and particle physics
Quantum mechanics
Controversies and disputes
Rutherford, Ernest, 1st Baron
Thomson, Joseph John
Bohr, Niels Henrik David
Laby, Thomas Howell
Langevin, Paul
Pettersson, Hans
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century
Great Britain
Vienna (Austria)
Manchester (England)
Cavendish Laboratory
Cambridge University
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission

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