- ERNEST RUTHERFORD- Fun Facts | BoysJoys


Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson OM, FRS (30 August 1871 – 19 October 1937) was a New Zealand chemist and physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics. In early work he discovered the concept of radioactive half-life, proved that radioactivity involved the transmutation of one chemical element to another, and also differentiated and named alpha and beta radiation,proving that the former was essentially helium ions. This work was done at McGill University in Canada. It is the basis for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry he was awarded in 1908 "for his investigations into the disintegration of the elements, and the chemistry of radioactive substances".

Rutherford performed his most famous work after he had moved to the Victoria University of Manchester in the UK in 1907 and was already a Nobel laureate. In 1911, he theorized that atoms have their positive charge concentrated in a very small nucleus, and thereby pioneered the Rutherford model of the atom, through his discovery and interpretation of Rutherford scattering in his gold foil experiment. He is widely credited with first "splitting the atom" in 1917 in a nuclear reaction between nitrogen and alpha particles, in which he also discovered (and named) the proton. This led to the first experiment to split the nucleus in a fully controlled manner, performed by two students working under his direction, John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton, in 1932. After his death in 1937, he was honoured by being interred with the greatest scientists of the United Kingdom, near Sir Isaac Newton's tomb in Westminster Abbey. The chemical element rutherfordium (element 104) was named after him in 1997.

  • Ernest Rutherford lived from the 30th of August 1871 to the 19th of October 1937.

  • Rutherford studied at Canterbury College, University of New Zealand before moving to England in 1895 for post graduate study at Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge.

  • Rutherford worked on radioactivity, coining the terms ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’ to describe the two different types of radiation emitted by uranium and thorium. He also observed that radioactive material took the same amount of time for half of it to decay, known as its “half life”.

  • In 1907, Rutherford, Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden carried out the Geiger-Marsden experiment, an attempt to examine the structure of the atom. The surprising results of this experiment demonstrated the existence of the atomic nucleus and became an integral part of the Rutherford model of the atom.

  • The Rutherford model of the atom was simplified in a well known symbol showing electrons circling around the nucleus like planets orbiting the sun. This symbol became popular and has been used by various organizations around the world as a symbol for atoms and atomic energy in general.

  • In 1908, Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the transmutation of elements and the chemistry of radioactive material.

  • The element 'rutherfordium' was named in Rutherford’s honor.