What should philosophers of science learn from the history of the electron?

In A. Warwick (ed.), Histories of the Electron: The Birth of Microphysics. pp. 451--465 (2001)
We have now celebrated the centenary of J. J. Thomson’s famous paper (1897) on the electron and have examined one hundred years of the history of our first fundamental particle. What should philosophers of science learn from this history? To some, the fundamental moral is already suggested by the rapid pace of this history. Thomson’s concern in 1897 was to demonstrate that cathode rays are electrified particles and not aetherial vibrations, the latter being the “almost unanimous opinion of German physicists” (p. 293) But were these German physicists so easily vanquished? De Broglie proposed in 1923 that electrons are a wave phenomenon after all and his proposal was soon multiply vindicated, even by the detection of the diffraction of the electron waves. Should we not learn from such a reversal? Should we not dispense with the simple-minded idea that Thomson discovered our first fundamental particle and admit that the very notion of discovery might well be ill-suited to science?
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 24,453
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Christian Wüthrich (2012). The Structure of Causal Sets. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 43 (2):223-241.
Steven French (2011). Shifting to Structures in Physics and Biology: A Prophylactic for Promiscuous Realism. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 42 (2):164-173.
Paul Dicken (2008). Conditions May Apply. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39 (2):290-293.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

58 ( #84,239 of 1,925,477 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

8 ( #107,561 of 1,925,477 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.