Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Ernest Rutherford: Father of nuclear physics

Ernest Rutherford was born on 30th August 1871 at a small town called Bridgewater near Nelson, New Zealand.

His father, James was a Scottish wheelwright and engineer who had emigrated from Perth, Scotland, and his mother, Martha Thomson, was an English school teacher from Essex, England. Ernest Rutherford grew up in a large family; he was the fourth child in a family with 12 children.

In 1893 Ernest graduated with an M.A. with double first-class honors, first in Mathematics and Mathematical Physics then in Physical Sciences from the University of New Zealand in Wellington and gained a B.Sc.

He researched magnetism and radio wave detection for 2 years before he was awarded a prestigious “1851 Exhibition Scholarship” to work as a research student at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, under J.J. Thomson. While working under J. J. Thomson, Rutherford began a lot of work in radioactivity, using X-rays from radioactive atoms discovered in 1896. In 1898, Rutherford discovered alpha and beta rays in uranium radiation.

In 1898 at the age of 26 he took up a chair at McGill University, Montreal, where he worked till 1907. During 9 years at McGill University in Canada he explained radioactivity as the natural transmutation of atoms, discovered radon, and dated the age of the Earth.

He moved back to the UK, to accept the Langworthy Professorship at Manchester University, where he carried out his most famous work, where he discovered the nuclear structure of atoms, and became the first person to split an atom.

In 1904 Rutherford published his first book Radioactivity and in 1908 received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry ‘for his investigations into the disintegration of the elements and the chemistry of radioactive substances’.

Rutherford published his model of the atom in 1911 as an interpretation of the α-scattering work carried out by Geiger and Marsden two years earlier. He was knighted in New Year Honors of 1914.

After his death on 19 October 1937, he was buried in Westminster Abbey near Sir Isaac Newton.
Ernest Rutherford: Father of nuclear physics


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