/foh"ton/, n.
a quantum of electromagnetic radiation, usually considered as an elementary particle that is its own antiparticle and that has zero rest mass and charge and a spin of one. Symbolically represented by the small greek letter Gamma. Also called light quantum.
[1900-05; PHOT- + -ON1]

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Minute energy packet of electromagnetic radiation.

In 1900 Max Planck found that heat radiation is emitted and absorbed in distinct units, which he called quanta. In 1905 Albert Einstein explained the photoelectric effect, proposing the existence of discrete energy packets in light. The term photon came into use for these packets in 1926. The energies of photons range from high-energy gamma rays and X rays to low-energy infrared and radio waves, though all travel at the same speed, the speed of light. Photons have no electric charge or rest mass and are the carriers of the electromagnetic field.

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also called  Light Quantum,  

      minute energy packet of electromagnetic radiation. The concept originated (1905) in Einstein's explanation of the photoelectric effect, in which he proposed the existence of discrete energy packets during the transmission of light. Earlier (1900), the German physicist Max Planck had prepared the way for the concept by explaining that heat radiation is emitted and absorbed in distinct units, or quanta. The concept came into general use after the U.S. physicist Arthur H. Compton (Compton, Arthur Holly) demonstrated (1923) the corpuscular nature of X-rays. The term photon (from Greek phōs, phōtos, “light”), however, was not used until 1926. The energy of a photon depends on radiation frequency; there are photons of all energies from high-energy gamma- and X-rays, through visible light, to low-energy infrared and radio waves. All photons travel at the speed of light. Considered among the subatomic particles, photons are bosons, having no electric charge or rest mass and one unit of spin; they are field particles that are thought to be the carriers of the electromagnetic field.

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Universalium. 2010.

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