Monti - A Brief History of the Atom


Researcher Istituto TESRE - CNR


Part I : Between 1913 and 1921, Thomson, Parson, Lewis, Allen and Harkins made up the essential elements to the definition of the "alpha-extended model" of the atom. Whereas Thomson, Parson, Lewis and Allen mainly dealt with the atom structure, Harkins specifically analyzed the nucleus structure . Even though they were contemporary, these scientists seem to have ignored their mutual researches ( in fact, Rutherford can be considered as the cause of the "separation" between Harkins, in particular, and the other authors ). As a result the different contributions, given by the above mentioned scientists, could not merge into a single, coherent model .

Part II : In 1937 Ferrmi designed an artificial neutron generator which he made by means of a "semi-cold" fusion between heavy ice and deuterium ions. In 1940 Borghi, apparently unacquainted with Harkins's ideas, advanced again the hypothesis according to which the neutron was a particular bound state of the hydrogen atom ; and, between 1950 and 1955, he designed and made the neutron synthesis, starting from a cold hydrogen plasma . From 1959 onwards Kevran found and experimentally reproduced several cold fusion and cold fission which he defined as "low energy transmutations" . In 1965, following Kervran's example George Oshawa made a new series of cold fusions electrochemically and biologically induced . In 1984 Rose and Jones "rediscovered" cold fission. In 1990 the experimental reality of cold fusion has been confirmed .


1815 Prout noted that the weights of the several atoms appeared to be multiples of the weight of hydrogen, and advanced the hypothesis that all other atoms are composed of hydrogen atoms (1).

1860 Marignac supposed the deviations of atomic weights from integral numbers to be a consequence of the fusion process of hydrogen atoms (1) .

1863 De Chancourtois arranged the elements in a spiral in the order of their atomic weights, and made the remark : "the properties of substances are the properties of numbers" (1) .

1869 Mendeleef built his Periodic Table of the Elements. The properties of the elements are periodic functions of the atomic number (1) .

1897 J.J.Thomson discovers that the cathode rays are material particles, charged with "negative" electricity : the electrons (2) .

1898 W.Wien identifies a particle which is "positively" charged, with a mass equal to that of the hydrogen atom, in a beam of ionized gas: the proton (3) .

1902-1904 Lord Kelvin formulates the first atom model, which was so strongly supported and developed by J.J. Thomson that it became known as the "Thomson (first) atom" .
According to this model, the atom consists of a sphere of uniformly distributed charge, about one Angstrom in diameter, in which the electrons are embedded like raisins in a pudding (4), (5) .

1904 Hantaro Nagaoka hypothesizes that the positive charge is concentrated in the center of the atom and that electrons form a ring, around such a nucleus, which is similar to that around Saturn (6).

1905 Albert Einstein formulates the theory of Relativity. With the gradual "disappearance" of the Ether the physical space where to place the atom and rebuild its structure disappears as well. The establishment of the theory of Relativity compromises the development of a model of the atom consistent with the experimental evidence, and deviates the "natural course" of Atomic Mechanics (7).

  1. J.J.Thomson definitely confirms the discovery of the proton, made by Wien
(8) .

  1. Ernest Rutherford gathers and develops the observations of Geiger an
Marsden, two of his young assistants. He concludes that the atom has a "nucleus"
where the positive charge is concentrated.
In some way, around it, the electrons are placed. Being excessively enthusiastic for the results obtained with the "bombardment method", Rutherford directs Nuclear Physics towards "high energies" .
Rutherford's model has a fundamental flaw : the dimensions of the nucleus result to be "very small" (of the order of 10-12 cm) on the basis of the hypothesis that "the central charge…may be supposed to be concentrated at a point", which allows the erroneous exchange of the word "surface" of the nucleus with the word "centre" of the nucleus (10) .
His model, moreover, does not answer three major questions :
  1. Negative electrons are attracted by the positive nucleus: yet they appear as "distant" from the nucleus. Why don't they fall on it ?
  2. Electrons are supposed to be distributed and "moving" around the nucleus. Why don't they radiate electromagnetic energy ?
  3. Nuclear charge is an integer multiple of Wien's "elementary positive charge". How come doesn't the nucleus "explode" because of electrostatic repulsion ? (11).

1913 Niels Bohr attempts an answer to the unsolved questions . These are his answers : 1) The atom is a "planetary" system ; centrifugal force prevents an electron from falling on the nucleus. 2) He simply postulates that electromagnetic laws are not valid for nuclear orbits. He then states that as a consequence of "its small dimensions" the nucleus does not influence "the atom's ordinary physical and chemical properties which, on the other hand, depend on external electrons". 3) As far as the third issue is concerned, he ignored it (12) .

1913 J.J.Thomson observes that no one has ever demonstrated that electrons are spherical and that the Coulomb field-at a micro level-has a spherical symmetry . He builds Thomson's "second" atom : a "rigid" atom and, consequently, a "theory of valence" (13) .

1915 Bohr's atom is absolutely incapable of eliminating the fundamental contradictions with the laws of electromagnetism. Above all, it is incapable accounting for chemical phenomena (14) .

1915 A.L.Parson introduces the magnetic field: the electron is not just an electric charge, but it is also a small magnet .
Position of electromagnetic stable equilibrium of electrons in atoms are possible.
In 1911 Kamerlingh onnes even provided a model of this "magnetic electron": a superconductive ring where electric flux going into the ring generates a magnetic field. Both are exceptionally stable.
Moreover Parson observes that the planetary atom is irremediably inconsistent with chemical and stereochemical evidence.
But his model has two flaws: 1) He does not extend the same hypothesis he made about the electron to the proton .
2) He maintains the "uniformly charged sphere of the Kelvin or Thomson atom" as a model of the nucleus (15) .

1915 William D. Harkins reconstructs the Periodic Table of the Elements, and provides two models (a spiral one and a helicoidal one). He moves from the hypothesis that every element's chemical properties essentially depend on the nucleus structure, which is composed of the sum of hydrogen and helium nuclei. He resolves the problem of the nucleus stability by advancing the hypothesis that the hydrogen atom "captures" its electron and, thus, gives raise to a neutral particle: the neutron. Electrons which have been captured "cement" (bind) the protons (16).

1916 G.N. Lewis works on Thomson's and Parson's ideas and "stops" the atom: "Bohr, with his electron moving in a fixed orbit, (has) invented systems containing electrons of which the motion produces no effects upon external charge . Now this is not only inconsistent with the accepted laws of electromagnetics but, I may add, is logically objectionable, for that state of motion which produces no physical effects wathsoever may better be called a state of rest" (17).
Lewis builds the theory of valence .

1918 H.S. Allen sees how the "rigid" atom stands. He lists the remarkable amount of experimental data in favour of a rigid structure, and he concludes by observing that: "it will be necessary to revise the prevailing view as to the small size and pure electrostatic field of the nucleus", and that: "Bohr's theory as to origin of series line in spectra may be restated so as to apply it to the ring electron. The essential points of the quantum theory and of Bohr's equations may be maintained, even if his atomic model be rejected" (18) .

1919 J.J. Thomson introduces magnetism and builds everything anew: series line in spectra, ect. from the point of view of the rigid atom. But he does not take into account the contributions of Parson, Lewis, Allen and Harkins (19) .

1919 E. Rutherford believes he has disintegrated nitrogen. As a matter of fact, he has fused a helium nucleus with a nitrogen one, expelling thus a proton . And, what is worse, he is convinced once and for all of the quality of the "bombardment method". He hopes for the future that growing energetic projectiles be available. It is the prelude to the birth of High Energy Physics (20) .

1920 W. D. Harkins publishes the first version "alpha extended model" of the nucleus . But his theory has a fundamental flaw : he places the "right" neutron and nucleus in the "wrong" atom of Rutherford and Bohr (21) .

1921 J. J. Thomson confirms that Bohr's planetary model - as far as atoms with many electrons are concerned - would become "hopelessly intricate" (22) .

1921 A. H. Compton provides experimental evidence in favour of magnetic electron (23) .

1921 W. D. Harkins further develops the "alpha extended model" of the nucleus and finally introduces in current terminology the neutron as "sum" of a proton and an electron (24) .

1921 Crehore points out that the rigid atom is by now currently used in chemistry, where it daily proves itself useful. He suggests that the entire field of chemistry is not a silly thing to be lightheartedly neglected in order to support Bohr's atom . He observes that those "useful" results from Bohr's theory can be obtained from other atomic models - i. e. rigid atom . And he adds that despite what Bohr did it is not essential to assume things against ordinary laws of electromagnetism . The rigid atom is based on the laws of electromagnetism : "So long as there is strict adherence to the Bohr model, an understanding of phenomena on the basis of electromagnetic theory will remain difficul, if not impossible… The abandonment of ring of electrons from an atomic model does not seem to be so revolutionary when viewed in the light of these facts" (25) .


1921 Albert Einstein receives the Nobel Prize for Physics. He is given the Prize for the "discovery of the laws of photoelectric effect" . But it inevitably assumes the "political value" of an "endorsement" of the theory of Relativity .

1922 Niels Bohr receives the Nobel Prize for Physics. He is given the Prize for his studies on "the atoms structure and radiation" .


On a theoretical level, physicists impose the planetary atom on chemists.
Chemists "suffer" but, as a matter of fact, do not give a damn. The theory of valence
is, and continues to be, that by Lewis and Thomson (26) .


1925 Bohr's atom has some problems with the anomalous Zeeman effect. Uhlenbeck and Goudsmit "discover" the magnetic electron . Before introducing such a "revolutionary concept" they ask for advice to the least apt person: Niels Bohr . Bohr takes the opportunity of staging a clever "coup de main", that of introducing the main argument adopted by Parson and Allen against planetary atom at the basis of the "new Quantum Mechanics of Heisenberg" and inside the planetary atom : the magnetic electron. With a warm letter encouraging the "birth" of Spin, Bohr gives them his approval (27).

1926 E. Schroedinger presents his "An undulatory Theory of the Mechanics of Atoms and Molecules": "The point of view taken here… is rather that material points consist of, or are nothing but, wave systems" (28) . Schroedinger does not ask himself what his "wave systems" are made of. By paraphrasing Einstein, one could say that "the ether took its revenge and ate matter" (29) .

1928 W. D. Harkins attempts to produce gold by introducing an electron in a mercury nucleus, but fails (30) .

1932 J. Chadwick "discovers" the neutron (31) .

1932 W. D. Harkins timidly lays claim to the neutron (32).
Heisenberg states that "Harkins's neutron" (the sum of a proton and electron) is "different" from "Chadwick's neutron", that is, a "new" particle which "does not contain" electrons, but "creates" them at the moment of its decay (33) .
As a matter of fact, as we have seen before, Harkins placed the right neutron and nucleus in the wrong atom: "his" neutron cannot be accepted because it is "incompatible with Bohr's atom an Heisenberg's Quantum Mechanics" .

1935 Thus, it is J. Chadwick who receives the Nobel Prize for Physics "for the discovery of the neutron".



  1. French revolution. May 8. Lavoisier is beheaded.
Lavoisier introduced the "galilean method" in chemistry, contributing to its "scientific foundation". On the basis of his experiments he could observe that "in all chemical reactions the same quantity of matter is present before and after the reaction". Lavoisier consequently hypothesizes that in a chemical reaction transmutations from one element to another do not occur (34).

  1. Vaquelin observes what Lavoisier had no occasion to observe: the
transmutation from one element to another. The experimental method of Vaquelin is as stringent as Lavoisier's method. But Lavoisier cannot take note of it (35).

1792 - 1801 On the bases of his experimental observations Herschel concludes that the sun has a solid, "cold", nucleus (36).

1815 - 1847 The Restoration "excessively" rehabilitates Lavoisier: the "intransmutability" of the chemical elements becomes a dogma instead of an experimental hypothesis. Alchemy (which, on the other hand, admits transmutations of the chemical elements) is "discredited".
However the experimental results of Vaquelin are too stringent to be denied. Therefore they are neglected. The last official trace of these experiments can be found in Regnault's Course de Chimie (1847). Then they disappear (37).

  1. Berzelius reports Vogel's experimental evidence for biological transmutations

  1. - 1900 Nineteenth century is the century of the steam engine. During its
second half the sun becomes - contrary to experimental evidence - gaseous and hot: a big steam engine (39).
  1. E. Rutherford obtains the fusion of the a helium nucleus with a nitrogen one.
Transmutations are possible but - in his opinion - only "high energy transmutations" ("hot" fusion - bombardment method) (20).

  1. Nernst, Jeans and others suggest that "since the outflowing heat ( from the Sun
represents the energy liberated by subatomic processes, the amount can only be calculated if we know the laws of liberation of subatomic energy, and any procedure which evades this difficult problem begs the question". Eddington begs the question (40).

  1. Georges Ranque discovers the "Ranque Effect", which can offer an
experimental answer to the problem of the formation and of the internal structure of
the sun. But nobody gives it the proper attention it deserves (41).
  1. While looking for "an artificial generator of neutrons", Enrico Fermi
accomplishes a "semi cold fusion" between "heavy ice" and deuterium (heavy hydrogen). But he does not give it enough attention, as he should (42).

  1. Seemingly unaware of Harkins's work, Don Carlo Borghi makes the
assumption again that the neutron is a peculiar "bound state" of the hydrogen atom. His hypothesis is obviously refused because it "contradcts Bohr's atom and Heisenberg's Quantum Mechanics". Borghi does not realize the "danger" of his hypothesis. He insists and is estranged (43).

1950 - 1955 D. C. Borghi planned an experiment to synthesize neutrons starting from a cold hydrogen plasma. Expelled from Milan, he moves to the Vatican. With the money he is given - under the counter - by De Gasperi, he starts his experiments in a Roman laboratory. Borghi succeeds where Harkins failed: "cold" synthesis of the neutron shows that the neutron really is "the sum of the proton and an electron".
De Gasperi's death marks the end of Borghi's financial support. He emigrates to Brazil in order to continue his experiments. In Recife he founds the Centre for Nuclear Energy (CEN) (44).

  1. Borghi tries to present his experimental results at the Vienna Convention. But
Amaldi's action prevents him from having his paper accepted. Estranged once again, Borghi leaves the scene for good (45).

  1. C. L. Kervran discovers "low energy transmutations". He regrets the disastrous
effects induced by the uncritical and univocal adoption of Rutherford's method in the study on the atom's structure. He concludes that nuclei are "rigid" structures and composed of "bricks".
He lists a first series of ascertained low energy transmutations: cold fusion and cold fission examples; and provides some models of "Kervran's atom". But contemporary physicists refuse to believe in the experimental evidence in front of them because it would question the interests, by now widely well - established, of "High Energy Physics".
Kervran is estranged (46).

  1. Following Kervran's studies George Oshawa, with some assistants, makes a
vast number of "cold fusions", biologically and electrochemically induced. Particularly important is the "cold fusion" of iron 56, starting from carbon and oxygen; it is electrochemically obtained with three different methods (47).

  1. Omero Speri and Piero Zorzi make a system to be used to obtain
"electrochemically induced nuclear microfusions". The system works for two years and is regularly patented (48).

  1. Moving from a model of the sun's internal structure which is radically different
from the "thermonuclear" one, Renzo Boscoli advances the hypothesis of a cold fusion experiment based on the "slow bombardment" of lithium deuteride with neutrons and gamma rays (49).

  1. Rose and Jones "discover" a "new kind of natural radioactivity" which is
Experimental evidence for the alpha extended model of the atom (50).

  1. P. Armbruster, G. Munzenberg et al. work "on the production of heavy elements by cold fusion" (51).

  1. H. G. Clerc et al. "rediscover" cold fission (52).

  1. - 1989 While working at a new model of the atom, R. A. Monti comes to know
Boscoli's, Kervran's, Speri and Zorzi's, Oshawa's and Borghi's papers. He applies for a grant with the National Research Council (CNR) to work on cold fusion. The grant is turned down. And since he is "unemployed" as an experimentalist he works on History of Physics and Theoretical Physics: "The criogenic model of nuclear fusion (1988); "Historico - critical analysis of atom models" (1988); "Reconstruction of the Periodic Table of the Elements according to the Alpha - Extended Model of the Atom" (1989). (53)

March 1989 Fleishmann and Pons realize a cold fusion experiment which draws great attention. (54)

April - May 1989 High Energy Physicists start a huge campaign to "invalidate" cold fusion in front of the public.

6 July 1989 J. Maddox, Director of "Nature", believes "it is time to settle once and for all cold fusion as pure delusion".

March 1990 Salt Lake City, First Annual Conference on Cold Fusion. A year later researchers are able to publicly "produce" a mass of experimental results which cover forever with ridicule the "enemies" of cold fusion. Maddox pretends nothing happened.

August 1990 Soviet - American Gallium Experiment (SAGE) confirms that there is no experimental evidence for Thermonuclear reactions in the sun. (55)

June 1991 Second Annual Conference on Cold Fusion, Italy.