History of Science Museum: Collection Database Search


Former Display Label - 'Moseley's apparatus'

The modern periodic table of the elements is arranged in order of increasing atomic number. The use of atomic number (now understood as the number of protons in the nucleus) rather than atomic mass is the result of Moseley's work just before World War I.

Moseley photographed the characteristic X-ray spectra of the elements, and related the X-ray frequencies to atomic number. His specimens were mounted on trolleys inside evacuated glass tubes and bombarded with electrons from cathode ray tubes. Moseley had graduated in Physics from Trinity College, Oxford in 1910. He then worked with Sir Ernest Rutherford in Manchester before returning to Oxford. On the outbreak of war he volunteered for the army and was killed in action at Gallipoli in 1915, aged only 27.

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