Photoelectric Effect (Encyclopedia of Science)
When visible light, X rays, gamma rays, or other forms of electromagnetic radiation are shined on certain kinds of matter, electrons are ejected. That phenomenon is known as the photoelectric effect. The photoelectric effect was discovered by German physicist Heinrich Hertz (1857894) in 1887. You can imagine the effect as follows: Suppose that a metal plate is attached by two wires to a galvanometer. (A galvanometer is an instrument for measuring the flow of electric current.) If light of the correct color is shined on the metal plate, the galvanometer may register a current. That reading indicates that electrons have been ejected from the metal plate. Those electrons then flow through the external wires and the galvanometer, providing the observed reading.
The photoelectric effect is important in history because it caused scientists to think about light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation in a different way. The peculiar thing about the photoelectric effect is the relationship between the intensity of the light shined on a piece of metal and the amount of electric current produced.
(The entire section is 1080 words.)
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