Suspicion of Misconduct on Millikan’s Oil Drop Experiment
Robert Andrews Milikan is
one of the most famous physicists in history. He was born in Illinoi,
USA on the 22nd of March in 1868. He studied in physics in Columbia
University and graduated from there in 1895. He was always interested
in mathematics and physics in his university years, but after he had
graduated from Columbia University ,he more specialized in physics.
Then he continued his career with his PhD on physics again in
Columbia University. In 1896 , he began to work at
the University of Chicago as an assistant for
a few years. He
had been in Germany for his postdoctoral work for one year, then
returned to the University of Chicago. During
the last decade of the nineteenth century and
the early 20th century Robert Andrew Millikan worked with Albert A.
Michelson. In 1902 he married to Erwin
Blanchard In this
period Millikan spent most of his time teaching and writing
textbooks; therefore, he couldn’t make
an outstanding progress in researches. In
this period, other important scientists
such as Albert
Einstein , Max Plank , J.J.Thomson made
significant breakthroughs . Finally, Robert Andrew Millikan took an
import step in physics world with his well-known oil drop experiment.
Robert A. Millikan had
performed many important
experiments and discoveries in the optics, molecular physics, and
electricity. However, in 1909 the first time he did the
oil drop experiment .
The main goal of this experiment is to measure the charge of the
electron . Millikan conducted this experiment with Harvey
Fletcher, who was a new graduate student .
In the process of experiment, two parallel
metal surface was located horizontally like
the plates of a capacitor in Millikan’s and Fletcher’s apparatus.
When they apply a potential difference between the two metal
platforms , a steady electric field was occurred in the space between
them. Then, the evaporated oil drops was
send into the apparatus. First, Millikan and Fletcher measured the
velocity of a falling oil drop when the
zero electric field was.
According to the
first measurement , only
the gravitational force affect the oil
drops. After that, at the second part of
the experiment , the
two metal plates were applied by voltage
and the electric field was adjusted, due to keeping the oil drops
suspended in the mechanism. When the equilibrium was supplied, the
gravitational force was equal to the
electrical force, and
as the electric field was known, the charge
on the oil drops was determined. Millikan
and Fletcher repeated the experiment
many times to obtain the accurate results.
As a result, they found the charge of a
single electron (1.592×10
. When Millikan and Fletcher performed this experiment and discovered
the charge of the electron,
former experiments hadn’t approved the subatomic particles. The
findings was very precious for physics and Robert Andrews Millikan
won the Nobel Prize in 1923.
is no doubt that the Millikan’s oil drop experiment is one of the
utmost incident in physics world. At
the beginning of the experiment, Millikan and Fletcher
used water in their apparatus, but water was not appropriate for it.
using oil drops instead of water and
he reached the satisfactory results. Immediately he show the
suspended oil drops in the mechanism that was charged with potential
voltage to Millikan. When they realized the correct outcome,
they kept doing experiment using oil. They spent a few years with
trying to find the charge of electron and finally they found two
important results. The
one was correct measurement of the electric charge, and the second
also very important data that was determination of Ne which is
related to the Brownian motion. By
the time they discovered two so crucial results , Millikan realized
that his reputation would rise in the physics world with the
measurement of e constant and he desired it for himself . Harvey
Fletcher was also aware of the significancy
of charge of
this point , they were going to write two articles which explain the
experiments and results. Millikan’s
proposal to Fletcher was to write the Brownian motion work his PhD
thesis and Millikan wanted to write about the electric-charge work.
argument between Robert
Andrew Millikan and Harvey Fletcher arose at that time. In the end
Fletcher accepted to write about the Brownian motion experiment and
left the oil drop experiment to Millikan. Therefore ; Millikan
achieved his goal and this work was going to led him to win the Nobel
prize in 1923. His work was also very important for other issues,
especially for Einstein’s theories. Millikan’s work supported
some Einstein’s theories about photoelectric.
here there is a violation of ethic codes that Millikan had committed
to the 9th
article of Professional Obligations in the NSPE
, Engineers shall give credit for engineering work to those to whom
credit is due, and will recognize the proprietary interests of
others. In this case Robert A. Millikan and Harvey Fletcher was
working together and the suggestion of using oil in the experiment
belong to Fletcher ; nevertheless , Millikan didn’t stated his name
in the reports. Under
article , it
is clearly explained that engineers shall, whenever possible, name
the person or persons who may be individually responsible for
designs, inventions, writings, or other accomplishments. As a result
specified the name of Fletcher in the experiment reports.
the oil drop experiment , Fletcher completed his doctorate and left ,
and Millikan continued working alone . Between 1910 and 1917 there
was an assertion about a fraud in Millikan’s oil drop experiment .
physicist Felix Ehrenhaft claimed that electric
charges should have been
smaller than the value of Millikan had found according to his own
research. Millikan worked for to disprove the Ehrenhaft’s
assertion. He performed the experiment again and measured
each oil drops to
find most accurate results. He
noted all examinations in his notebook. The results demonstrated that
there was so narrow range of error between every single drop
he had finished his works on the oil drop experiment
published his findings in 1913.
to this experiment , Robert Andrew Millikan was accepted to be the
scientist that changed the experimental science.
there is a controversy over Millikan’s oil drop experiment .
been coordinated to the Millikan’s private laboratory and
his notebook was examined in detail. According Millikan’s
that he had taken on to the notebook
didn’t report the all oil drop’s result. Only 58 of the oil
droplets’ measurements were informed . Nevertheless, on the
notebook, there were more or less 175 measurement
data of oil
drop . Against
this claim, Millikan defended himself with his on words again on his
notebook : ” It is to be remarked, too, that this is not a selected
group of drops but represents all of the drops experimented upon
during 60 consecutive days italics in the original, during which
time the apparatus was taken down several times and set up a new. ”
this point there is another
violation of code
that Robert Andrew Millikan committed . Act
of Millikan interferes with both 5th
article of rules of practice and 3rd
article of professional obligations in NSPE . According to these
articles , engineers
shouldn’t state the materials incorrectly and
have to include all facts about the project or experiment. On
the other hand , Millikan didn’t include all oil drop measurements
in his report.
the examination of Millikan’s notebook was continued to reach a
result , the inspectors saw that there were also differences by
the necessities ,
and the barometric pressure was 73,45 . Finally , Millikan
in his notebook the data of over one hundred oil drop measurements.
While running the system, about twenty five of them were frustrated
and couldn’t be counted . He put the results of fifty eight of the
remaining about seventy five oil drop and he released them to the
droplets that Millikan chosen were neither too big or too small when
compared to the standard ones. He had rejected the this kind of
I were Harvey Fletcher , I would demand justice . Because the
starting point of the correct function of the experiment is the
right choice of Fletcher. They
both worked and reached the results together. At that time Fletcher
was also studying for his doctorate , thus
he had to accept that offer. Even so, he had to make his name to be
announced with Millikan when he received the Nobel prize.