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Arthur Compton and “Compton Scattering”

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Abstract

At about the time Linus Pauling was just beginning to think about the nature of the chemical bond, another scientist, Arthur Compton, was clearing away more mysteries surrounding the new science of quantum mechanics. In his classic paper, “A Quantum Theory of the Scattering of X-rays by Light Elements,”1 Compton points out that “. . . J. J. Thomson’s classical theory of the scattering of X-rays, though supported by the early experiments of Barkla and others, has been found incapable of explaining many of the more recent experiments.” (The experiments were those Compton himself had carried out. According to his findings, when X rays impinged on the surface of a crystal, the crystal reflected them at a lower frequency than they had when they first hit the crystal. This would be like visible light of one color hitting a mirror, and then being reflected as a different color.)

Keywords

Nobel Prize Compton Scattering Photoelectric Effect Compton Effect Billiard Ball 
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Endnotes

  1. 1.
    The Physical Review, Vol. 21, 1923.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    According to Comp ton in a letter of August 11, 1949, to Samuel Glasstone, the author of Sourcebook on Atomic Energy, G. N. Lewis of the University of California first used the word “photon” to describe a quantum of energy emitted by one atom and absorbed by another; see Arthur Holly Compton, The Cosmos of Arthur Holly Compton, Marjone Johnston, editor (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1967), p. 43.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Katherine Russell Sopka, Quantum Physics in America (American Institute of Physics, New York, 1988), Vol. 10, p. 91.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Arthur Holly Compton, The Cosmos of Arthur Holly Compton, Marjorie Johnston, editor (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1967), p. 107.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    W. H. Bragg, letter to Nature, May 27,1915; see also A. H. Compton, “A Quantum Theory of the Scattering of X-rays by Light Elements,” The Physical Review, May 1923, Vol. 21, No. 5.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Arthur Holly Compton, The Cosmos of Arthur Holly Compton, Marjorie Johnston, editor (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1967), p. 144.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See E. U. Condon, “60 Years of Quantum Mechanics,” Physics Today, October 1962.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    John Slater to Linus Pauling, personal letter, December 16, 1953.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    See Daniel J. Kevles, The Physicists (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1978), p. 240.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Nathan Reingold, “Physics and Engineering in the United States, 1945–1965, A Study of Pride and Prejudice,” in The Michelson Era in American Science: 1870–1930 (American Institute of Physics, New York, 1988), p. 295.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Katherine Russell Sopka, Quantum Physics in America (American Institute of Physics, New York, 1988), Vol. 10, p. 147.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    A. Russo and M. De Maria, “Cosmic Ray Romancing: The Discovery of the Latitude Effect and the Compton-Millikan Controversy,” in Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1986), pp. 211–216.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Arthur Holly Compton, The Cosmos of Arthur Holly Compton, Marjorie Johnston, editor (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1967), p. 43.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Arthur Holly Compton, The Cosmos of Arthur Holly Compton, Marjorie Johnston, editor (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1967), p. 86.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    A. Russo and M. De Maria, “Cosmic Ray Romancing: The Discovery of the Latitude Effect and the Compton-Millikan Controversy,” in Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1986), pp. 211–216.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    J. Robert Oppenheimer, to his brother Frank, personal letter, June 4, 1939.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Silvan S. Schweber, “Shelter Island, Pocono, and Oldstone: The Emergence of American Quantum Electrodynamics after World War H,” Osiris, Vol. 2, 1986.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Laurie M. Brown and Lillian Hoddeson, “The Birth of Elementary Particle Physics” Physics Today, April 1982; see also Robert Marshak, “The Multiplicity of Particles”, as reprinted in Scientific American Reader (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1953).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Laurie M. Brown and Lillian Hoddeson, “The Birth of Elementary Particle Physics,” Physics Today, April 1982.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    G. Lemaitre, The Primeval Atom, Betty Korff and Serge Korff, translators, 1950.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Arthur Holly Compton, The Cosmos of Arthur Holly Compton, Marjorie Johnston, editor (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1967), p. 430.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Arthur Holly Compton, The Cosmos of Arthur Holly Compton, Marjorie Johnston, editor (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1967), p. 439.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Willard Libby to Secretary of Commerce Lewis Strauss, personal letter, November 25 (from the files of the AEC).Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Arthur Holly Compton, The Cosmos of Arthur Holly Compton, Marjorie Johnson, editor (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1967).Google Scholar

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© Anthony Serafini 1993

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