Willliam Crookes

History of the Atomic Theory Project

Background Information

Sir Williams Crookes was born in London, England on the 17th of June 1832. He was the oldest of 16 siblings. His father, Joseph Crookes, was a tailor. His mother, Mary Scott Lewis Rutherford, on the other hand was Joseph Crookes second wife at the time. The British chemist and physicists, William, studied at the Royal College of Chemistry in London. In 1854 Crookes became the superintendent of the meteorological department at Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford. The following year he found an assistant position at the College of Science in Chester, Cheshire. In 1856 William Crookes married Ellen Humphrey of Darlington. These two came to have a daughter and three sons. After the passing of his father, Crookes inherited a large fortune of money. With this inheritance he devoted himself entirely to various kinds of scientific work at his private laboratory in London. In 1859 he founded a science magazine, Chemical News, that he edited for many years to come. Sir William Crookes ended up passing away on the 4th of April 1919.

Contribution to the Atomic Theory

In 1879 Crookes studied effects of putting an electric current through a gas in a closed tube. The tube had an electrode, a conductor through which electricity enters or leaves an object, at both ends of the tube. The flow of electrically charged particles then moved from one of electrodes to the other. This electrode was called the cathode and the electrically charged particles were known as cathode rays. Crookes thought that cathode rays were negatively charged molecules or atoms. Many experiments showed that cathode rays could go through thin sheets of material which would not be possible if the cathode rays were as large as molecules or atoms. His discoveries led to the findings of the negatively charged electrons.

Cathode Ray Tube

Works Cited

"Sir William Crookes." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.


"William Crookes." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.


"Development of the Atomic Theory." Development of the Atomic Theory. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2016.