Physics:Timeline of particle discoveries

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This is a timeline of subatomic particle discoveries, including all particles thus far discovered which appear to be elementary (that is, indivisible) given the best available evidence. It also includes the discovery of composite particles and antiparticles that were of particular historical importance.

More specifically, the inclusion criteria are:

  • Elementary particles from the Standard Model of particle physics that have so far been observed. The Standard Model is the most comprehensive existing model of particle behavior. All Standard Model particles including the Higgs boson have been verified, and all other observed particles are combinations of two or more Standard Model particles.
  • Antiparticles which were historically important to the development of particle physics, specifically the positron and antiproton. The discovery of these particles required very different experimental methods from that of their ordinary matter counterparts, and provided evidence that all particles had antiparticles—an idea that is fundamental to quantum field theory, the modern mathematical framework for particle physics. In the case of most subsequent particle discoveries, the particle and its anti-particle were discovered essentially simultaneously.
  • Composite particles which were the first particle discovered containing a particular elementary constituent, or whose discovery was critical to the understanding of particle physics.
Time Event
1800 William Herschel discovers "heat rays" (now known as infrared)
1801 Johann Wilhelm Ritter made the hallmark observation that invisible rays just beyond the violet end of the visible spectrum were especially effective at lightening silver chloride-soaked paper. He called them "de-oxidizing rays" to emphasize chemical reactivity and to distinguish them from "heat rays" at the other end of the invisible spectrum (both of which were later determined to be photons). The more general term "chemical rays" was adopted shortly thereafter to describe the oxidizing rays, and it remained popular throughout the 19th century. The terms chemical and heat rays were eventually dropped in favor of ultraviolet and infrared radiation, respectively.[1]
1895 Discovery of the ultraviolet radiation below 200 nm, named vacuum ultraviolet (later identified as photons) because it is strongly absorbed by air, by the German physicist Victor Schumann[2]
1895 X-ray produced by Wilhelm Röntgen (later identified as photons)[3]
1897 Electron discovered by J. J. Thomson[4]
1899 Alpha particle discovered by Ernest Rutherford in uranium radiation[5]
1900 Gamma ray (a high-energy photon) discovered by Paul Villard in uranium decay[6]
1911 Atomic nucleus identified by Ernest Rutherford, based on scattering observed by Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden[7]
1919 Proton discovered by Ernest Rutherford[8]
1931 Deuteron discovered by Harold Urey[9][10] (predicted by Rutherford in 1920[11])
1932 Neutron discovered by James Chadwick[12] (predicted by Rutherford in 1920[11])
Main page: Discovery of the neutron
1932 Antielectron (or positron), the first antiparticle, discovered by Carl D. Anderson[13] (proposed by Paul Dirac in 1927 and by Ettore Majorana in 1928)
1937 Muon (or mu lepton) discovered by Seth Neddermeyer, Carl D. Anderson, J.C. Street, and E.C. Stevenson, using cloud chamber measurements of cosmic rays[14] (it was mistaken for the pion until 1947[15])
1947 Pion (or pi meson) discovered by C. F. Powell's group, including César Lattes (first author) and Giuseppe Occhialini (predicted by Hideki Yukawa in 1935[16])
1947 Kaon (or K meson), the first strange particle, discovered by George Dixon Rochester and Clifford Charles Butler[17]
1950 Λ0 (or lambda baryon) discovered during a study of cosmic-ray interactions[18]
1955 Antiproton discovered by Owen Chamberlain, Emilio Segrè, Clyde Wiegand, and Thomas Ypsilantis[19]
1956 Electron neutrino detected by Frederick Reines and Clyde Cowan (proposed by Wolfgang Pauli in 1930 to explain the apparent violation of conservation of energy in beta decay)[20] At the time it was simply referred to as neutrino since there was only one known neutrino.
Main page: Physics:Cowan–Reines neutrino experiment
1962 Muon neutrino (or mu neutrino) shown to be distinct from the electron neutrino by a group headed by Leon Lederman[21]
1964 Omega baryon[22] and Xi baryon discovery at Brookhaven National Laboratory[23]
1969 Partons (internal constituents of hadrons) observed in deep inelastic scattering experiments between protons and electrons at SLAC;[24][25] this was eventually associated with the quark model (predicted by Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig in 1964) and thus constitutes the discovery of the up quark, down quark, and strange quark.
1974 J/ψ meson discovered by groups headed by Burton Richter and Samuel Ting, demonstrating the existence of the charm quark[26][27] (proposed by James Bjorken and Sheldon Glashow in 1964[28])
1975 Tau discovered by a group headed by Martin Perl[29]
1977 Upsilon meson discovered at Fermilab, demonstrating the existence of the bottom quark[30] (proposed by Kobayashi and Maskawa in 1973)
1979 Gluon observed indirectly in three-jet events at DESY[31]
1983 W and Z bosons discovered by Carlo Rubbia, Simon van der Meer, and the CERN UA1 collaboration[32][33] (predicted in detail by Sheldon Glashow, Mohammad Abdus Salam, and Steven Weinberg)
1995 Top quark discovered at Fermilab[34][35]
1995 Antihydrogen produced and measured by the LEAR experiment at CERN[36]
2000 Quark-gluon fireball discovered at CERN[37]
2000 Tau neutrino first observed directly at Fermilab[38]
2011 Antihelium-4 produced and measured by the STAR detector; the first particle to be discovered by the experiment
2012 A particle exhibiting most of the predicted characteristics of the Higgs boson discovered by researchers conducting the Compact Muon Solenoid and ATLAS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider[39]

See also


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  2. The ozone layer protects humans from this. Lyman, T. (1914). "Victor Schumann". Astrophysical Journal 38: 1–4. doi:10.1086/142050. Bibcode1914ApJ....39....1L. 
  3. W.C. Röntgen (1895). "Über ein neue Art von Strahlen. Vorlaufige Mitteilung". Sitzber. Physik. Med. Ges. 137: 1.  as translated in A. Stanton (1896). "On a New Kind of Rays". Nature 53 (1369): 274–276. doi:10.1038/053274b0. Bibcode1896Natur..53R.274.. 
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  5. E. Rutherford (1899). "Uranium Radiation and the Electrical Conduction Produced by it". Philosophical Magazine 47 (284): 109–163. doi:10.1080/14786449908621245. 
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  8. E. Rutherford (1919). "Collision of α Particles with Light Atoms IV. An Anomalous Effect in Nitrogen". Philosophical Magazine 37: 581. 
  9. Brickwedde, Ferdinand G. (1982). "Harold Urey and the discovery of deuterium". Physics Today 35 (9): 34. doi:10.1063/1.2915259. Bibcode1982PhT....35i..34B. 
  10. Urey, Harold; Brickwedde, F.; Murphy, G. (1932). "A Hydrogen Isotope of Mass 2". Physical Review 39 (1): 164–165. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.39.164. Bibcode1932PhRv...39..164U. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 E. Rutherford (1920). "Nuclear Constitution of Atoms". Proceedings of the Royal Society A 97 (686): 374–400. doi:10.1098/rspa.1920.0040. Bibcode1920RSPSA..97..374R. 
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  18. The Strange Quark
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  20. F. Reines; C.L. Cowan (1956). "The Neutrino". Nature 178 (4531): 446–449. doi:10.1038/178446a0. Bibcode1956Natur.178..446R. 
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