Ernest Rutherford

Infobox Scientist
name = Ernest Rutherford

birth_date = birth date|df=yes|1871|8|30
birth_place = Brightwater, New Zealand
death_date = death date and age|df=yes|1937|10|19|1871|8|30
death_place = Cambridge, England
nationality = New Zealand
fields = Physics
workplaces = McGill University
University of Manchester
alma_mater = University of Canterbury
Cambridge University
academic_advisors = J. J. Thomson
doctoral_students =
notable_students = Mark Oliphant
Patrick Blackett
Hans Geiger
Niels Bohr
Otto Hahn
Cecil Powell
Teddy Bullard
Pyotr Kapitsa
John Cockcroft
Ernest Walton
Charles Drummond Ellis
James Chadwick
Ernest Marsden
Edward Andrade
Frederick Soddy
Edward Victor Appleton
Bertram Boltwood
Kazimierz Fajans
Charles Galton Darwin
Henry Moseley
A. J. B. Robertson
George Laurence
Robert William Boyle
known_for = Father of nuclear physics
Rutherford model
Rutherford scattering
Rutherford backscattering spectroscopy
Discovery of proton
Rutherford (unit)
Coined the term 'artificial disintegration'
influences =
influenced =
awards = Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1908)

Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, OM, PC, FRS (30 August 1871 – 19 October 1937) was a New Zealand physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics. He pioneered the orbital theory of the atom through his discovery of Rutherford scattering off the nucleus with his gold foil experiment. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908.

Early years

Ernest Rutherford was the son of James Rutherford, a farmer, and his wife Martha (born Thompson, originally from Hornchurch, Essex, England). [cite encyclopedia | first=A.H. | last=McLintock | encyclopedia=An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand | title=Rutherford, Sir Ernest (Baron Rutherford of Nelson, O.M., F.R.S.) | edition=1966 | date=18 September 2007 | url= | publisher=Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand | isbn=9780478184518 | accessdate=2008-04-02] James had emigrated from Perth, Scotland, "to raise a little flax and a lot of children". Ernest was born at Spring Grove (now Brightwater), near Nelson, New Zealand. His first name was mistakenly spelt "Earnest" when his birth was registered. [cite encyclopedia | last=Campbell | first=John | author= | authorlink= | coauthors= | editor= | encyclopedia=The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography | title=Rutherford, Ernest 1871-1937 | url= | edition=1996 | date=22 June 2007 | publisher=New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage, | volume=3 | isbn=0478184514 | accessdate=2008-04-02] He studied at Havelock School and then Nelson College and won a scholarship to study at Canterbury College, University of New Zealand where he was president of the debating society, among other things. After gaining his BA, MA and BSc, and doing two years of research at the forefront of electrical technology, in 1895 Rutherford travelled to England for postgraduate study at the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge (1895–1898), and he briefly held the world record for the distance over which electromagnetic waves could be detected. During the investigation of radioactivity he coined the terms alpha and beta to describe the two distinct types of radiation emitted by thorium and uranium.

Middle years

In 1898 Rutherford was appointed to the chair of physics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he did the work that gained him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908. In 1900 he gained a DSc from the University of New Zealand, and from 1900 to 1903 he was joined at McGill by the young Frederick Soddy (Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1921) and they collaborated on research into the transmutation of elements. Rutherford had demonstrated that radioactivity was the spontaneous disintegration of atoms. He noticed that a sample of radioactive material invariably took the same amount of time for half the sample to decay – its "half-life" – and created a practical application using this constant rate of decay as a clock, which could then be used to help determine the age of the Earth, which turned out to be much older than most of the scientists at the time believed.

In 1900 he married Mary Georgina Newton (1876-1945); they had one daughter, Eileen Mary (1901-1930), who married Ralph Fowler.

In 1907 Rutherford took the chair of physics at the University of Manchester. There along with Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden he carried out the Geiger-Marsden experiment, which demonstrated the nuclear nature of atoms. It was his interpretation of this experiment that led him to the Rutherford model of the atom, with a very small positively-charged nucleus orbited by electrons. In 1919 he became the first person to transmute one element into another when he converted nitrogen into oxygen through a nuclear reaction 14N(α,p)17O. In 1921, while working with Niels Bohr (who postulated that electrons moved in specific orbits), Rutherford theorized about the existence of neutrons, which could somehow compensate for the repelling effect of the positive charges of protons by causing an attractive nuclear force and thus keeping the nuclei from breaking apart. Rutherford's theory of neutrons was proved in 1932 by his associate James Chadwick, who in 1935 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery.

Later years

He was knighted in 1914. In 1919 he returned to the Cavendish as Director. Under him, Nobel Prizes were awarded to Chadwick for discovering the neutron (in 1932), Cockcroft and Walton for an experiment which was to be known as "splitting the atom" using a particle accelerator, and Appleton for demonstrating the existence of the ionosphere. He was admitted to the Order of Merit in 1925 and in 1931 was created Baron Rutherford of Nelson, of Cambridge in the County of Cambridge, a title that became extinct upon his unexpected death in hospital following an operation for an umbilical hernia (1937). Since he was a peer, British protocol required that he be operated on by a titled doctor, and the delay cost him his life. [cite web | author=D.A. Ramsay | title=Book review of Rutherford, Scientist Supreme by J. Campbell | url= | work=ISI Short Book Reviews | publisher=International Statistical Institute | date=2001 | accessdate=2008-04-02] He is interred in Westminster Abbey alongside J. J. Thomson.


Rutherford's research, along with that of his protégé Sir Mark Oliphant, was instrumental in the convening of the Manhattan Project to develop the first nuclear weapons.

Many items bear Rutherford's name in honour of his life and work:; Scientific discoveries
* the element rutherfordium, Rf, Z=104. (1997) [cite news | author=Michael Freemantle | title=ACS Article on Rutherfordium | url= | work=Chemical & Engineering News | publisher=American Chemical Society | date=2003 | accessdate=2008-04-02]
* craters on Mars and the Moon; Institutions
* Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, a scientific research laboratory near Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK.
* Rutherford College, a school in Auckland, New Zealand
* Rutherford College, a college at the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK
* the Rutherford Institute for Innovation at the University of Cambridge, UK
* Rutherford Intermediate School, Wanganui, New Zealand; Buildings
* a building of the modern Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, UK
* The Ernest Rutherford Physics Building at McGill University, Montreal, Canada [cite web | author= | title=ErnestRutherford Physics Building | url= | work=Virtual McGill | publisher=McGill University | date=24 January 2000 | accessdate=2008-04-02]
* a physics classroom in Portsmouth Grammar School, Hampshire, UK.
* the physics and chemistry building at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand
* The Coupland Building at the University of Manchester where Rutherford worked was renamed The Rutherford Building in 2006
* The Rutherford lecture theatre in the Schuster building at the University of Manchester; Halls of residence
* Rutherford Residence Hall at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, NJ, USA.
* a student hall at Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK.
* Rochester and Rutherford Hall, a boarding house at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.; School houses
* at Cashmere High School, Christchurch, New Zealand
* at Corran School for Girls, Auckland, New Zealand
* at Island School, Hong Kong
* at Macleans College, Auckland, New Zealand
* at Mount Roskill Grammar School, Auckland, New Zealand
* at Nelson College, New Zealand, his own high school
* at Rangiora High School, Rangiora, New Zealand
* at Rangitoto College, Auckland, New Zealand
* at Shirley Boys' High School, Christchurch, New Zealand
* at St Andrews College, Christchurch, New Zealand
* at Stepney Green School, London, England
* at Tanjong Katong Secondary School, Singapore
* at Waimea College, Richmond, New Zealand
* at Westburn School in Christchurch; Major streets
* Rutherford Close, a residential street in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, UK.
* Lord Rutherford Road in Brightwater, New Zealand - his birthplace.
* Rutherford Road in the biotech district of Carlsbad, California, USA.
* Rutherford Street in Nelson, New Zealand.; Other
* The Rutherford Award at Thomas Carr College for excellence in VCE Chemistry, Australia
* Image on New Zealand $100 note.
* Rutherford was the subject of a play by Stuart Hoar.
* On the side of the Mond Laboratory on the site of the original Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, there is an engraving in Rutherford's memory in the form of a crocodile, this being the nickname given to him by its commissioner, his colleague Peter Kapitza. The initials of the engraver, Eric Gill, are visible within the mouth.


*"Radio-activity" (1904), 2nd ed. (1905), ISBN 978-1-60355-058-1
*"Radioactive Transformations" (1906), ISBN 978-160355-054-3
*"Radiations from Radioactive Substances" (1919)
*"The Electrical Structure of Matter" (1926)
*"The Artificial Transmutation of the Elements" (1933)
*"The Newer Alchemy" (1937)

ee also

* Science and technology in Canada


Further reading

*cite journal | title=Lord Ernest Rutherford of Nelson (1871-1937) | author=R.H. Cragg | journal=Royal Institute of Chemistry Reviews | volume= 4| issue=4 | pages=129–145 | year=1971 | doi=10.1039/RR9710400129
*cite journal | title=The Rutherford Memorial Lecture, 1954. Rutherford-His Life and Work, 1871-1937 | author= E. Marsden | journal= Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series A | volume=226 | issue=1166 | pages=283–305 | year=1954 | url= | doi=10.1098/rspa.1954.0254

External links

* [ Biography] from Nobel prize official website
* [ Nobel Lecture] "The Chemical Nature of the Alpha Particles from Radioactive Substances"
* [ The Rutherford Museum]
* [ Rutherford Scientist Supreme]
* [ Profile from American Public Broadcasting Service]
* [ Profile from The New Zealand Edge]
* [,+Ernest Annotated bibliography for Ernest Rutherford from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues]
* [ Dictionary of New Zealand Biography]
* [ Biography in 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand]
* [ Rutherford at Canterbury University College from The Rutherford Journal]
* [ Rutherford's Timebomb] Article on Rutherford's contribution to dating the Age of the Earth
* [ BBC Radio 4: "In Our Time - Rutherford"]
* [ The Rutherford Collection at his alma mater the University of Canterbury]

NAME=Rutherford, Ernst
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson
SHORT DESCRIPTION=New Zealander nuclear physicist
DATE OF BIRTH=30 August 1871 CE
PLACE OF BIRTH=Spring Grove, near Nelson, New Zealand
DATE OF DEATH=19 October 1937
PLACE OF DEATH=Cambridge, England

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  • Ernest Rutherford — noun British physicist (born in New Zealand) who discovered the atomic nucleus and proposed a nuclear model of the atom (1871 1937) • Syn: ↑Rutherford, ↑First Baron Rutherford, ↑First Baron Rutherford of Nelson • Instance Hypernyms: ↑physicist *… …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Rutherford of Nelson, Ernest Rutherford, Baron — born Aug. 30, 1871, Spring Grove, N.Z. died Oct. 19, 1937, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Eng. New Zealand born British physicist. After studies at Canterbury College, he moved to Britain to attend Cambridge University, where he worked with J.J.… …   Universalium

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