A few classics with commentaries

Philosophical Magazine Letters has been publishing commentaries on some of the classic papers published in Philosophical Magazine, accompanied by reprints of the original papers themselves. Here are the links to some of those commentaries and papers:

  • J J Thomson’s paper on the discovery of electrons; E A Davis comments on the paper:

    The discovery over 100 years ago that cathode rays were composed of negatively charged corpuscles-subsequently named electrons-was an historic event in the development of science, demonstrating for the first time that particles smaller than atoms existed and initiating other investigations into the nature of matter, as well as marking the beginning of the electronics industry. The research investigations of J. J. Thomson, leading up to the crucial experiments identifying the particle and determining its charge-to-mass ratio as reported in the Philosophical Magazine, are here described.

  • P Weinberger on Zeeman’s paper of an effect named after him; and,
  • de Broglie’s paper on matter waves; P Weinberger’s commentary on de Broglie’s paper:

    De Broglie’s contribution in the Philosophical Magazine from 1924 is fascinating from many standpoints: for its moderate use of mathematics, the close connection to Einstein’s special theory of relativity, and of course for the proposal of matter waves. We revisit this mostly speculative publication, which contributed crucially to the birth of quantum mechanics.

  • Fumi’s paper on vacancies in monovalent metals; Alan Cottrell’s commentary on Fumi’s paper:

    Fumi’s paper of 1955 (F.G. Fumi, Phil. Mag. 46 1007 (1995).) is briefly reviewed. Based on elementary quantum free-electron theory, it gave a simple and elegant derivation of the properties of vacancies in monovalent metals and so provided that rare feature, a bridge from electron theory to the theory of lattice defects in metal crystals.

I enjoyed Cottrell’s commentary the most, since it talks about a problem that is of interest to me:

It is striking that the two great branches of theoretical solid-state physics as applied to metals – the electron theory and the theory of lattice defects – hardly speak to each other. An article on electron theory will deal, for example, with conductivity, cohesion and lattice structure, but rarely mention vacancies and dislocations. Similarly, one on defects will deal with diffusion and structure-sensitive properties such as strength and ductility without referring to electrons. The reason is obvious. Many-body quantum mechanics already has a hard-enough job dealing with the perfect lattice. The structural irregularities and complexities of crystal defects are almost beyond its grasp.

He also puts the work of Fumi in context (which, unlike the works of Thomson and de Broglie, is not a subject matter of high school physics texts):

The sophisticated structure of the modern electron theory of metals rests on one simple, secure foundation: the elementary quantum theory of the free-electron gas, with its leading concept of the Fermi energy. This continues to provide the key picture of a metal. Fumi showed, elegantly, that this basic theory is fully able to describe the properties of vacancies in simple metals; and so constructed a strong bridge leading from electron theory to the theory of lattice defects.

Happy reading!

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2 Responses to “A few classics with commentaries”

  1. Some links … « nanopolitan 2.0 Says:

    […] points us to some of the classic papers from the previous centuries that Philosophical Magazine has published […]

  2. Deep Says:

    Pleasantly surprised to land here while searching for Cottrell’s commentary on Fumi, which in turn was shown by google when I searched for Fumi’s paper (in connection with teaching diffusion)! Any chance you happen to have copies of these two which you can share?

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