Physics in Perspective

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 64–82 | Cite as

Early Attempts to Detect the Neutrino at the Cavendish Laboratory

  • Jaume NavarroEmail author
Original Paper


In the 1920s and early 1930s the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge was preeminent in experimental research on radioactivity and nuclear physics, with theoretical physics playing a subsidiary role in guiding, but not determining the course of experimental research. Soon after Wolfgang Pauli (1900–1958) proposed his neutrino hypothesis in 1930 to preserve conservation of energy and momentum in beta decay, experiments – the first of their kind – were carried out in the Cavendish Laboratory to detect Pauli’s elusive particle, but they were abandoned in 1936. I trace these early attempts and suggest reasons for their abandonment, which may contribute to an understanding of the complex way in which theoretical entities are accepted by physicists.


Hans A. Bethe Niels Bohr James Chadwick Arthur S. Eddington Charles D. Ellis Enrico Fermi George Gamow William J. Henderson Alexander I. Leipunski Lise Meitner Maurice E. Nahmias Wolfgang Pauli Rudolf Peierls Ernest Rutherford Cavendish Laboratory beta decay neutrino 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for the History and Philosophy of ScienceUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUnited Kingdom

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