Ernest Rutherford

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Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson OM, FRS (30 August 1871 – 19 October 1937) was a New Zealand-born British chemist and physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics.[1] 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. 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".[2]

Rutherford performed his most famous work after he had moved to the U.K. in 1907 and was already a Nobel laureate. In 1911, he postulated that atoms have their positive charge concentrated in a very small nucleus,[3] and thereby pioneered the Rutherford model, or planetary, 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.[4] This led to the first experiment to split the nucleus in a controlled manner, performed by two students working under his direction, John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton, in 1932.

Rutherford died in 1937, and was honoured in death by being interred near the greatest scientists of the United Kingdom, near Sir Isaac Newton's tomb in Westminster Abbey. The chemical element rutherfordium (element 104) was named for him in 1997.


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