From β-Decay to the W-Boson. A Historical Survey

  • Otto Nachtmann
Part of the Texts and Monographs in Physics book series (TMP)


The history of weak interactions could be said to have begun on the 1st of March 1896. This was the day on which Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity (Becquerel 1896). We today know that the majority of the rays that he discovered stem from the β-decay of heavy nuclei. The distinction between α- and β-rays was first made by Rutherford in 1899. For a long time the nature and the origin of the radioactive rays remained a puzzle. This is not surprising, since it was not until 1911 that Rutherford discovered the atomic nucleus (Rutherford 191 1, 191 la). It was Niels Bohr who first attributed the origin of β-rays to the nucleus (Bohr 1913). James Chadwick, who later discovered the neutron, showed in 1914 that the β-rays possess a continuous energy spectrum (Chadwick 1914). This fact actually concealed a major problem although this was only demonstrated 13 years later by Ellis and Wooster.


Weak Interaction Lagrange Density Neutral Current Axial Vector Parity Violation 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Otto Nachtmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Theoretische PhysikUniversität HeidelbergHeidelbergFederal Republic of Germany

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