William Crookes: Seeking the Face Behind Nature’s Laws


crookes x-ray quote.png

On 04 April 1919, William Crookes (1832–1919) passed away in London, UK.

He was an early developer of vacuum tubes, known for inventing the “Crookes’ tube” in 1875. This invention of the “Crookes’ tube” was essential for the discoveries of atomic physics by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845–1923) (“X-rays”, i.e. heat + ²³⁵U -> γ + ²³⁵U) and subsequently Antoine Henri Becquerel (1852– 1908) (“X-ray ionizing radiation,” i.e. α particles, β particles and γ photons). [Michael I. Pupin (1858–1935) of Columbia University and Henry Louis Smith (1859-1951) of Davidson College, NC had also discovered X-rays around the same time as Röntgen.]

crookes x-ray chart.jpgThese low probability radiation events had required an exposure time of several days. Both discoveries are described by Planck’s blackbody radiation formula (1900) and are very low probability events.

B(f,T) = 2hf³c⁻² /(Exp[hf/kT] – 1)

His philosophical views are indicated by his having joined the Theosophical Society, The Ghost Club, as well as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. A quote from Prof. Crookes at the British Association Meeting, Presidential Address, held at Bristol, UK (18 Oct 1898):

“. . . Nature — the word that stands for the baffling mysteries of the Universe. Steadily, unflinchingly, we strive to pierce the inmost heart of Nature, from what she is to reconstruct what she has been, and to prophesy what she yet shall be. Veil after veil we have lifted, and her face grows more beautiful, august, and wonderful, with every barrier that is withdrawn. ”

Blackman, Eric G. “Radiation Laws.” University of Rochester. Dept. of Physics and Astronomy. AST 104, Solar System.
Duckworth, Dyce. “The Harveian Oration on the Influence of Character and Right Judgment in Medicine: Delivered before the Royal College of Physicians, October 18th, 1898.” British Medical J. (1973). Original book (London and New York: Longmans, Green & Co., 1898), 29. Image online: Vanity Fair, 1902 (wikipedia).