A Radio Talk by Charles F. Kettering
Because of its dramatic appearance, the study of atomic power is likely to be regarded as very new. But actually the atomic bomb is the unexpected climax of the work of hundreds of men and women of many nationalities who have patiently been at work for the past 75 years. Here are a few highlights from the well known history.
In 1879 Sir William Crookes discovered that when high voltage electricity was sent through an evacuated glass tube a peculiar set of rays was generated. These were called "Cathode Rays."
Later, Sir J. J. Thomson of the Cavendish Laboratories at Cambridge University studied these rays and demonstrated they were particles of negative electricity which he named "Electrons," They are the lightest particles which are found in the structure of the atom.
In 1895 the World was startled by Roentgen's x-rays which are produced by using these electrons to bombard metal targets in a vacuum. This discovery prompted the Frenchman, Becquerel, to investigate the properties of substances which glow in the dark, In the course of his experiments he found that uranium gives off radiations similar to x-rays. These experiments started the Curies on the path that led to the discovery of radium in 1898. This opened an entirely new field in atomic research.