JF Ptak Science Books Post 2091
James Chadwick--the discoverer of the neutron and leading Brit investigator in the Manhattan Project--announced his great discovery in the form of a letter-to-the-editor. Of course, this was a letter to the editor of Nature--not exactly the Billboard Breeze of Sumpin', Montana, or the NYT or WSJ for that matter--where letters like this were more a quick way to get experimental results announced quickly, a rapid-publication device in the days when the scientific weekly was the quickest way of getting news out the fellow researchers.
But, no matter--it is still a short introduction to a long idea, not quite as romantic as the lede implies. Chadwick's "Possible Existence of a Neutron", appeared in Nature on 27 February 1932. It takes up a tidy and compact 1.25 columns, all on one page (312) of this issue of the journal. It is in a sort of imaginary "tradition" of great letters-to-the-editor, like the Alpher-Bethe-Gamow paper ("The Origin of Chemical Elements", on the stuff of the Big Bang, a 1948 paper published in the journal Physical Review that worked out the basis for the formation of particles in the universe), another instance of a major scientific announcement being made as a "simple" presentation to the journal's editor.