Questions I’ve answered about Thomson and Rutherford

People have asked me questions about Thomson and Rutherford in the past, and if I had time to kill, I might have actually answered them.  This page contains some of the questions that I’ve answered over the years.  Plus the answers.

Q:  Did Thomson’s experiments lead to the discovery of the neutron?

A:  No. They led to the discovery of the electron, which is what comprised the negative beam in his cathode ray experiments.

The neutron was discovered by James Chadwick in 1932 after a series of staggeringly complicated experiments.

Q:  What did Thomson find out about cathode rays?

A:  Thomson discovered that cathode rays are really electrons.  Read the tutorial section more carefully, because I talk about it a lot there.

Q:  How did Ernest Rutherford die?

A:  He died from a hernia.

For some reason, a Lord (which was his title) may only have operations performed on them by doctors with a title like “sir”, and none was available when he needed it. As a result of the delay in treatment, he died.  Seriously.  You can’t make that stuff up.

Q:  What are the two conclusions about the gold foil experiment?

A:  These:

  • Atoms aren’t just a big empty space with little particles lightly sprinkled into it. They have order.
  • The positive charge in the atom is contained in one place, which we now call the nucleus.

Q:  Why don’t anodes, which have positive charge, attract cathode rays?

In a cathode ray tube, the cathode rays (a.k.a. electrons) move directly from the cathode to the anode precisely because the anode is positively charged. Because an electrical circuit needs two electrodes (anode and cathode), you can’t have a cathode or cathode rays without an anode that attracts electrons.


This webpage and the related worksheets are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC 4.0).  For more information about this license and how it affects how you can use the contents of this site, click here.  For those of you who need to cite this using incorrect methods such as MLA, APA, and Turabian, it was written by Ian Guch on October 17, 2014.  If you’d like to cite this page correctly using ACS style, click here.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.