An ironmonger's shop in Gateshead around 1910, similar to the
one in which Arthur Holmes' father worked.
working on the newly discovered phenomenon of radioactivity.
Kelvin found it di~cult to accept that this work, into which he
had put so much e¬ort, was being disposed of so readily. He
clung to his old ideas, getting more and more exasperated, until
one day in August 1906 while he was on holiday in France, he
read in The Times a report of experiments with radioactivity,
performed by Sir William Ramsay and Frederick Soddy, that
finally seemed to disprove his ideas.
Kelvin wrote an angry letter to The Times criticising their work.
While he recognised how 'brilliantly interesting' and 'solidly
instructive' it was, he also considered it added nothing new to
the theory of atoms that had been proposed by Democritus two
and a half thousand years ago! The irritation felt by the younger
generation at Kelvin's obstinate refusal to accept the new evi-
dence was thinly veiled: 'Lord Kelvin's letter will of course