Physics and Progress

The ultimate composition of all things has been a subject for deliberate thought since the beginning of philosophy —since long before the distinct beginning of either physics or metaphysics. In the fifth or fourth century before the Christian era, a Greek philosopher known in history as Democritus formulated the theory that all things are composed of indivisible particles called atoms. In the first century before this era, an Italian poet and philosopher known in history as Lucretius extended this theory, or restated it, by saying that the ultimate elements of the universe are atoms and void. The atomic theory, as thus conceived, was accepted by philosophers and physicists until the last decade of the last century. Even now, it has been modified and supplemented rather than abandoned or completely superseded.

So far as philosophy and physics are concerned, the atomic theory, as originally formulated, has been modified and supplemented only by electrical concepts. The atom, regarded for so long a time as the least particle of matter, has been found to consist of a central nucleus of positive electricity, called a proton, surrounded by charges of negative electricity, called electrons. This is the present theory, unless the nature of the central nucleus is now regarded as unknown, and unless the electron is now regarded as the ultimate particle or atom. "In any case it is clear that electricity is the fundamental constituent of matter" (Encyclopxdia Britannica, 14th edition, vol. 8, p. 198).

Giving up the Spectral
April 9, 1932

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