Representing Electrons: A Biographical Approach to Theoretical Entities

4 October 2006

by Theodore Arabatzis, The University of Chicago Press. Hardback ISBN 0226024202, £44.50 ($70). Paperback ISBN 0226024210, £18 ($28).


Both a history and a metahistory, this book focuses on the development of various theoretical representations of electrons from the late 1890s until 1925, and the methodological problems associated with writing about unobservable scientific entities. Here, the electron – or rather its representation – is used as a historical actor in a novel biographical approach. Arabatzis illustrates the emergence and gradual consolidation of its representation in
physics, its career throughout old quantum theory, and its appropriation and reinterpretation by chemists. Furthermore, he argues that the considerable variance in the representation of the electron does not undermine its stable identity or existence. The book should appeal to historians, philosophers of science and scientists alike.

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