The development of the model of the atom (common content with chemistry) The development of the model of the atom (common content with chemistry)


New experimental evidence may lead to a scientific model being changed or replaced.

Before the discovery of the electron, atoms were thought to be tiny spheres that could not be divided.

The discovery of the electron led to the plum pudding model of the atom. The plum pudding model suggested that the atom is a ball of positive charge with negative electrons embedded in it.

The results from the alpha particle scattering experiment led to the conclusion that the mass of an atom was concentrated at the centre (nucleus) and that the nucleus was charged. This nuclear model replaced the plum pudding model.

Niels Bohr adapted the nuclear model by suggesting that electrons orbit the nucleus at specific distances. The theoretical calculations of Bohr agreed with experimental observations.

Later experiments led to the idea that the positive charge of any nucleus could be subdivided into a whole number of smaller particles, each particle having the same amount of positive charge. The name proton was given to these particles.

The experimental work of James Chadwick provided the evidence to show the existence of neutrons within the nucleus. This was about 20 years after the nucleus became an accepted scientific idea.

Students should be able to describe:

  • why the new evidence from the scattering experiment led to a change in the atomic model
  • the difference between the plum pudding model of the atom and the nuclear model of the atom.
  • Details of experimental work supporting the Bohr model are not required.
  • Details of Chadwick’s experimental work are not required.

WS 1.1 - Understand how scientific methods and theories develop over time.

WS 1.2 Use a variety of models such as representational, spatial, descriptive, computational and mathematical to solve problems, make predictions and to develop scientific explanations and understanding of familiar and unfamiliar facts.

WS 1.6 - Recognise the importance of peer review of results and of communicating results to a range of audiences.







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