Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.
Joseph John Thomson
Born: 18 December 1856, Cheetham Hill, near Manchester, United Kingdom
Died: 30 August 1940, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Prize motivation: "in recognition of the great merits of his theoretical and experimental investigations on the conduction of electricity by gases."
Prize share: 1/1
The idea that electricity is transmitted by a tiny particle related to the atom was first forwarded in the 1830s. In the 1890s, J.J. Thomson managed to estimate its magnitude by performing experiments with charged particles in gases. In 1897 he showed that cathode rays (radiation emitted when a voltage is applied between two metal plates inside a glass tube filled with low-pressure gas) consist of particles - electrons - that conduct electricity. Thomson also concluded that electrons are part of atoms.