AT&T Tech Channel

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Shown in college classrooms (occasionally, still!), this 28-minute film gives both historical and scientific insight to the wave nature of elementary, atomic-level particles. The film’s guides are Lester Germer and Alan Holden, both Bell Laboratories scientists.

In 1927, Bell Labs physicists Clinton Davisson and Lester Germer performed an experiment involving electron patterns on the surface of nickel. Their experiment confirmed the hypothesis that particles also have a wave-like nature. Davisson won the Nobel Prize for this in 1937; he was the first Bell Labs scientist to win the Nobel. He retired from the Labs in 1946. 

Lester Germer was a graduate student lab assistant when he worked with Davisson in 1927. He had started at the Labs—while it was still part of Western Electric—back in 1919. Later, he headed the Labs’ contact physics department, and developed equipment that allowed for the visual display of low-energy electron diffraction patterns on a fluorescent screen. By 1961 he was ready to retire, but before he did, he made this film, which re-creates the famous 1927 experiment.

Dr. Alan Holden, the host and narrator of the film, started at Bell Labs in 1925. Though trained as a chemist, he joined in the accounting department, then publications, finally starting work as a chemist (and physicist) for Bell Labs around 1936. He also was instrumental in promoting science education, both inside the Labs and out in the community. He retired from the Labs in 1960.

The film was directed by John R. Friedman, who later joined the staff of Bell Labs, producing many of the films in the AT&T Archives over the next few decades. This film was produced by Educational Services Incorporated; it was intended for classroom use.

Another film with Alan Holden, Crystals, directed by and written with filmmaker Richard Leacock, who did other work for the Bell System:

Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ

Release date: 01/20/2015

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