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Plasticine and Valves: Industry, Instrumentation and the Emergence of Nuclear Physics

  • Jeff Hughes
Part of the Science, Technology and Medicine in Modern History book series (STMMH)

Abstract

It is scientific lore that experimental physics before the Second World War relied on ’sealing-wax and string.’ Synonymous with small-scale, benchtop science, ’sealing-wax and string’ feature prominently in reminiscences about prewar physics, where they have somehow come to epitomise a golden age of innocence before big science and the bomb, the nostalgic era of heroic individuals doing science with whatever meagre resources came to hand. The phrase has become a shorthand for a style, a way of doing physics. It has also come to stand for a certain penuriousness that is taken to be characteristic of much of prewar physics. In that it connotes an altogether more relaxed world, closer to the gentlemanly milieu of nineteenth-century science than to the high-pressure, high-finance ethos of that of the late twentieth, ’sealing-wax and string’ has become one of the central myths of the history of early-twentieth-century physics.1

Keywords

Royal Society Disintegration Experiment Cloud Chamber Philosophical Magazine Geiger Counter 
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Notes

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  • Jeff Hughes

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