„We see from Lenard's table that a cathode ray can travel through air at atmospheric pressure a distance of about half a centimetre before the brightness of the phosphorescence falls to about half its original value. Now the mean free path of the molecules of air at this pressure is about 10-5 cm., and if a molecule of air were projected it would lose half its momentum in a space comparable with the mean free path. Even if we suppose that it is not the same molecule that is carried, the effect of the obliquity of the collisions would reduce the momentum to half in a short multiple of that path. Thus, from Lenard's experiments on the absorption of the rays outside the tube, it follows on the hypothesis that the cathode rays are charged particles moving with high velocities, that the size of the carriers must be small compared with the dimensions of ordinary atoms or molecules. The assumption of a state of matter more finely subdivided than the atom of an element is a somewhat startling one; but a hypothesis that would involve somewhat similar consequences—viz. that the so-called elements are compounds of some primordial element—has been put forward from time to time by various chemists.“

— Joseph John Thomson, Royal Institution Lecture (April 30, 1897) as quoted by Edmund Taylor Whittaker, A History of the Theories of Aether and Electricity from the Age of Descartes to the Close of the Nineteenth Century http://books.google.com/books?id=CGJDAAAAIAAJ (1910).

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