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Four Revolutions in the Earth SciencesFrom Heresy to Truth$
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James Powell

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231164481

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231164481.001.0001

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Strange Rays

Strange Rays

(p.32) Strange Rays
Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences

James Lawrence Powell

Columbia University Press

This chapter focuses on the initiatives of various physicists and chemists to explore the strange new rays called X-rays that were discovered by Wilhelm Röntgen in 1895. The decade of the 1890s was a time of great progress in science. No year in that decade was more eventful than 1895. In Sweden, Svante Arrhenius was calculating the effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide on global temperature, while in Britain John Perry was exposing the fallacy of Kelvin's assumptions about the age of the Earth. The Scottish chemist William Ramsay discovered helium, previously known only from the Sun's spectrum, in an earthly mineral. That same year, at the University of Wurzburg in Germany, Röntgen was investigating the properties of cathode rays that led to his discovery of X-rays. This chapter also looks at the work of Marie Curie on radioactivity and of Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy on radioactive decay.

Keywords:   helium, X-rays, Wilhelm Röntgen, William Ramsay, cathode rays, Marie Curie, radioactivity, Ernest Rutherford, Frederick Soddy, radioactive decay

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