An Appraisal of the Controversial Nature of the Oil Drop Experiment: Is Closure Possible?

  title={An Appraisal of the Controversial Nature of the Oil Drop Experiment: Is Closure Possible?},
  author={Mansoor Niaz},
  journal={The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science},
  pages={681 - 702}
  • M. Niaz
  • Published 1 December 2005
  • History
  • The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Acceptance of the quantization of the elementary electrical charge (e) was preceded by a bitter dispute between Robert Millikan (1868–1953) and Felix Ehrenhaft (1879–1952), which lasted for many years (1910–25). Both Millikan and Ehrenhaft obtained very similar experimental results and yet Millikan was led to formulate the elementary electrical charge (electron) and Ehrenhaft to fractional charges (subelectron). There have been four major attempts to reconstruct the historical events that led… 

Feyerabend’s Counterinduction and Science Textbooks

According to Feyerabend (1970a) most scientific theories are not consistent with all known facts (p. 43). Consequently, if we tell students to accept only those theories which are consistent with the

Identifying and Addressing Student Difficulties with the Millikan Oil Drop Experiment

The Millikan oil drop experiment has been characterized as one of the ‘most beautiful’ physics experiments of all time and, certainly, as one of the most frustrating of all the exercises in the

Objectivity in the Making

The theoretical framework of studies reported in this book is based on an examination of the evolving forms of scientific judgment (including objectivity) in the history of science as suggested by

Reconstruction of the history of the photoelectric effect and its implications for general physics textbooks

The photoelectric effect is an important part of general physics textbooks. To study the presentation of this phenomenon, we have reconstructed six essential, history and philosophy of science


A Framework to Facilitate Conceptual Understanding shows that the following aspects play an important role in the facilitation of conceptual change: relationship between the process of theory development by scientists and a students’ acquisition of knowledge.

Nature of Science in General Chemistry Textbooks

It is concluded that in most cases the history of chemistry is ‘inside’ chemistry and in order to facilitate understanding, textbooks need to interpret within a NOS perspective.

History and Philosophy of Science as a Guide to Understanding Nature of Science

Nature of science (NOS) is considered to be a controversial topic by historians, philosophers of science and science educators. It is paradoxical that we all teach science and still have difficulties

Models, Theories, and Laws in Philosophy of Science and Science Education

Models, theories, and laws are important in both philosophy of science and science education. However, there is a continuous discussion among philosophers of science about these concepts, and it is

Understanding Epistemological Anarchism (Feyerabend) in Research Reported in Reference Work

This chapter evaluates research reported in the International Handbook of Research in History, Philosophy and Science Teaching (HPST). HPST is the first handbook ( 978-94-007-7653-1)



The Oil Drop Experiment: An Illustration of Scientific Research Methodology and its Implications for Physics Textbooks

Evaluation of the methodology used in recent search for particles with fractional electrical charge (quarks) and its implications for understanding the scientific research methodology of Millikan shows that all the textbooks and manuals ignored the Millikan–Ehrenhaft controversy and in general lacked a history and philosophy of science perspective.

The Oil Drop Experiment: A Rational Reconstruction of the Millikan-Ehrenhaft Controversy and Its Implications for Chemistry Textbooks

Research in science education has recognized the importance of history and philosophy of science. Given this perspective, it is important to analyze how general chemistry textbooks interpret Mil-

Electrons (+ and −), Protons, Photons, Neutrons, Mesotrons and Cosmic Rays

THIS book is a revised and enlarged edition of Prof. Millikan‘s book "Electrons" which appeared in 1935, and was itself based on his celebrated work "The Electron" (1917), which in its day occupied a

In Defense of Robert Andrews Millikan

Robert Andrews Millikan was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1923, in large part for his pioneering measurement of the charge of the electron. He was a founder, first leader and all-around

The search for elementary particles with fractional electric charge and the philosophy of speculative experiments

All known elementary particles that can be isolated as individual particles have an electric charge that is equal in magnitude to the electron’s charge, q=1.6×10−19 C, or is zero. This includes the

The Charge and Nature of the $ \alpha $-Particle

In the previous paper, we have determined the number of α-particles expelled per second per gramme of radium by a direct counting method. Knowing this number, the charge carried by each particle can


I am pleased to fulfil my obligation as a Nobel Prize winner to talk to you here on cathode rays. I assume that you would prefer me to tell you what others could not tell you. I shall describe to you

The Millikan oil‐drop experiment: Making it worthwhile

Improvements to the Millikan oil drop experiment as it is performed in teaching laboratories are described. Enhancement of the optics in the oil‐drop apparatus greatly improves the visibility of the

Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes

For centuries knowledge meant proven knowledge — proven either by the power of the intellect or by the evidence of the senses. Wisdom and intellectual integrity demanded that one must desist from

Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge. By Karl Mannheim. Edited by Paul Kecskemeti. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1952. Price 25s.)

reflection leads us to acknowledge the occurrence of "implicit love of God" in men; this occurs as something "infinitesimal" within the network of necessity or "gravity" (I think this term is coined