Atomic Structure, Periodicity, and Matter: Development of the Atomic Theory

Modern Atomic Theory: Models

 In 1897, J.J. Thomson discovered the electron by experimenting with a Crookes, or cathode ray, tube. He demonstrated that cathode rays were negatively charged. In addition, he also studied positively charged particles in neon gas. Thomson realized that the accepted model of an atom did not account for negatively or positively charged particles. Therefore, he proposed a model of the atom which he likened to plum pudding. The negative electrons represented the raisins in the pudding and the dough contained the positive charge. Thomson's model of the atom did explain some of the electrical properties of the atom due to the electrons, but failed to recognize the positive charges in the atom as particles.

In 1911, Ernest Rutherford, a former student of J.J. Thomson, proved Thomson's plum pudding structure incorrect. Rutherford with the assistance of Ernest Marsden and Hans Geiger performed a series of experiments using alpha particles. Rutherford aimed alpha particles at solid substances such as gold foil and recorded the location of the alpha particle "strikes" on a fluorescent screen as they passed through the foil. To the experimenters’ amazement, although most of the alpha particles passed unaffected through the gold foil as expected, a small number of particles were deflected at an angle, and a few ricocheted straight back. Rutherford concluded that the atom consisted of a small, dense, positively charged nucleus in the center of the atom with negatively charged electrons surrounding it. The discovery of the nucleus is considered to be Rutherford's greatest scientific work.

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