‘To reason by means of images’: J. J. Thomson and the mechanical picture of nature

Annals of Science 37 (1):31-57 (1980)

Throughout his life J. J. Thomson was committed to a mechanical interpretation of nature. This work proceeded in several stages. Early in his career he attempted a Lagrangian formulation of mechanics. But due to certain epistemological difficulties with this approach, he began exploring various analogies and models, particularly those involving vortex motion. After his discovery of the electron in 1897, he commenced a synthesis of the electron with his previous physical conceptions. The result was a hypothesis of the ether as being composed of particles even smaller than electrons
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DOI 10.1080/00033798000200111
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References found in this work BETA

Against Method.Paul Feyerabend - 1975 - London: New Left Books.
The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory.Pierre Maurice Marie Duhem - 1954 - Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Models and Analogies in Science.Mary B. Hesse - 1963 - University of Notre Dame Press.
William Thomson: Smoke Rings and Nineteenth-Century Atomism.Robert Silliman - 1963 - Isis: A Journal of the History of Science 54:461-474.

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