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William Crookes

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Sir William Crookes

Sir William Crookes (June 17 1832April 4 1919) was an English chemist and physicist.

Working on spectroscopy, in 1861 he discovered a previously unknown element with a bright green emission line in its spectrum. He named the element thallium, from the Greek thallos, a green shoot. Crookes also identified the first known sample of helium, in 1895.

He was the inventor of the Crookes radiometer, which today is made and sold as a novelty item. He also developed the Crookes tubes, investigating cathode rays.

In his investigations of the conduction of electricity in low pressure gases, he discovered as the pressure was lowered, that the negative electrode appeared to emit rays (the so-called cathode rays, now known to be a stream of free electrons, and used in cathode ray display devices). He was one of the first scientists to investigate what are now called plasmas.


Preceded by:
Sir Archibald Geikie
President of the Royal Society
1913–1915
Succeeded by:
Sir J. J. Thomson

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