Neon (Greek νέον (neon) meaning "new one") was discovered in 1898 by the British chemists Sir William Ramsay (1852–1916) and Morris W. Travers (1872–1961) inLondon. Neon was discovered when Ramsay chilled a sample of the atmosphere until it became a liquid, then warmed the liquid and captured the gases as theyboiled off. After nitrogen, oxygen, and argon, the three gases that boiled off were krypton, xenon, and neon.
In December 1910, French engineer GeorgesClaude made a lamp from an electrified tube of neon gas. In 1912, Claude's associate began selling neon discharge tubes as advertising signs. They wereintroduced to U.S. in 1923, when two large neon signs were bought by a Los Angeles Packard car dealership. The glow and arresting red color made neon advertisingcompletely different from the competition.
Neon played a role in the basic understanding of the nature of atoms in 1913, when J. J. Thomson, as part of hisexploration into the composition of canal rays, channeled streams of neon ions through a magnetic and an electric field and measured their deflection byplacing a photographic plate in their path. Thomson observed two separate patches of light on the photographic plate (see image), which suggested two differentparabolas of deflection. Thomson eventually concluded that some of the atoms in the neon gas were of higher mass than the rest. Though not understood at the timeby Thompson, this was the first discovery of isotopes of stable atoms. It was made using a crude version of an instrument we now term a mass spectrometer.
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