The electron, the nucleus, and quantum theory; three brilliant gentlemen – Niels Bohr, Charles Galton Darwin, and John Nicholson – had minds that effectively attempted to explain the hows and whys of our world. Through their works on the structure of the atom, these three physicists faced similar questions and came up with similar conclusions. Today, the Bohr model of the atom – despite its flaws – is highly regarded as a stair-step of progress in the studies of physics, chemistry, and quantum mechanics, yet the efforts of Darwin and Nicholson have not gone to waste, for their writings were referred to by Bohr and other scientists at the time.
Bohr, Darwin, and Nicholson, of course, would not have even started their works if Ernest Rutherford, considered one of the greatest physicists in history, had not discovered the positive charge within an atom’s nucleus. Furthermore, Rutherford’s model of the atom was a foundation for the works on atomic models by Bohr, Nicholson, and Darwin. The one big flaw with Rutherford’s model that puzzled physicists and chemists was the electrons’ circular acceleration; in the Rutherford model of the atom, the electron would spin around the nucleus and eventually smash into it, since the energy of an electron would be depleted by its circular acceleration. To rid the scientific world of this flaw in the atomic model, Bohr, Darwin, and Nicholson had one common goal: come up with an atomic model that makes sense!
Each of these three men had their fair share of contributions in developing the ideal atomic model. Darwin – who worked with Bohr in Rutherford’s laboratory in England – assisted Moseley (the man credited for the makings of the atomic number) with his experiments involving X-ray diffraction. Also, Darwin developed the Darwin Term, an equation that describes the splitting of the spectral lines of atoms. John Nicholson, as a mathematical physicist, worked with helium and hydrogenic elements. Nicholson paid particular attention to angular momentum, the paths of electrons, and the nucleus’s effect on electrons. Nicholson highly criticized the Bohr Model, for the Ad-Hoc nature of it suggested that it was possible to determine the exact paths of electrons. In Nicholson’s mathematically natured mind, this seemed impossible. Niels Bohr, compared to Darwin and Nicholson, had the most developed and accepted model for the atom. Bohr considered the electron as a particle that released and absorbed energy in “packages”, or “quanta”. Like Nicholson, Bohr did much of his work and calculations with hydrogenic atoms. Moreover, the works of Nicholson and Darwin supplemented Bohr’s works; the Darwin Term is parallel to Bohr’s model, and Nicholson’s writings on angular momentum were utilized in Bohr’s papers.
Although Bohr’s works (and atomic model) are much more apparent and appreciated, Darwin and Nicholson were each integral physicists that made Bohr’s work more possible. Overall, all three minds exhibited relationships with the study of quantum theory and the model of the atom. Bohr, Darwin, and Nicholson collectively contributed to today’s understanding of the atom and, therefore, our world around us.
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McCormmach, Russel. “The Atomic Theory of John William Nicholson.” Historic Articles of Chemistry 3.2 (1995): 160-184. SpringerLink. Web. 26 Oct. 2012.
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