J. J. Thomson

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J. J. Thomson

Sir Joseph John Thomson, OM, FRS (18 December 185630 August 1940), often known as J. J. Thomson, was a British scientist. Thomson is credited with the discovery of the electron and isotopes, and the invention of the mass spectrometer.


  • The difficulties which would have to be overcome to make several of the preceding experiments conclusive are so great as to be almost insurmountable.
    • Warning about the non-conclusiveness for the experimental foundation of electrostatic theory, in a footnote of the third edition of: James Clerk Maxwell (1891). A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, Vol.1, 3rd Edition. Oxford University Press. p. 37. 
  • I have described at some length the application of Positive Rays to chemical analysis; one of the main reasons for writing this book was the hope that it might induce others, and especially chemists, to try this method of analysis. I feel sure that there are many problems in chemistry, which could be solved with far greater ease by this than any other method. The method is surprisingly sensitive — more so than even that of spectrum analysis, requires an infinitesimal amount of material, and does not require this to be specially purified; the technique is not difficult if appliances for producing high vacua are available.
    • Rays of Positive Electricity (1913)


  • The electron: may it never be of any use to anybody!
    • A popular toast or slogan at J. J. Thompson's Cavendish Laboratory in the first years of the 1900s, as quoted in Proceedings of the Royal Institution of Great Britain, Volume 35 (1951), p. 251.

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