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Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford
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Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford

Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford (August 30, 1871 - October 19, 1937), called "father" of nuclear physics, pioneered the orbital theory of the atom notably in his discovery of rutherford scattering with his Gold Foil experiment.


Rutherford on the New Zealand 100 dollar note

Rutherford was born at Spring Grove, (now in Brightwater), near Nelson, New Zealand. He studied at Nelson College and graduated at Canterbury College, now the University of Canterbury, with three degrees and two years of research at the forefront of electrical technology.

In 1895 Rutherford travelled to England for postgraduate study at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge University (1895-1898). There he briefly held the world record for the distance over which wireless waves were detected and he named the alpha and beta rays.

In 1898 Rutherford was appointed to the chair of physics at McGill University where he did the work which gained him the 1908 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He had demonstrated that radioactivity was the spontaneous disintegration of atoms. This is ironic given his famous remark "In science there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting.".

In 1907 he took the chair of physics at Manchester University. There he discovered the nuclear nature of atoms, and was the world's first successful alchemist, he converted nitrogen into oxygen.

In 1917 he returned to the Cavendish as Director. Under him, Nobel Prizes were awarded to Chadwick for discovering the neutron, Cockcroft and Walton for splitting the atom using a particle accelerator and Appleton for demonstrating the existence of the ionosphere.

His research, along with that of his protege, Sir Mark Oliphant was instrumental in the convening of the Manhattan Project.

He was made a peer (a rare distinction for a New Zealander) and became Ernest Lord Rutherford of Nelson. He appears on New Zealand's hundred dollar note and has appeared on postage stamps of Russia (1971), Canada (1971), Sweden (1968) and New Zealand (1971 and 1999). In 1997 the element Rutherfordium was named in his honour.

Preceded by:
New Creation
Baron Rutherford Followed by:
Extinct

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