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.

Note that there have been many other composite particles discovered; see list of mesons and list of baryons. See List of particles for a more general list of particles, including hypothetical particles.

  • 1800: William Herschel discovers "heat rays"
  • 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 "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 Schumann2

References

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