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Ernest Rutherford

A Nobel Prize winner in the field of Chemistry, Ernest Rutherford was born in New Zealand in 1871, into a large family, the son of a Scottish immigrant father. His mother was a teacher. Ernest went to government schools, and went to Nelson Collegiate School when he was 16-years-old.


Ernest Rutherford
 

Rutherford was awarded a scholarship in 1889 and attended Canterbury College at the University of New Zealand in Wellington. He would graduate in 1893, with majors in Physical Science and Math. He won a Science Scholarship in 1894, and attended Trinity College in Cambridge, England, where he was a promising research student. He earned a B.A. Research Degree. He traveled to Canada in 1898, taking over the MacDonald Chair of Physics at Montreal's McGill University.

Rutherford would return in 1907 to England, where he took over as the University of Manchester's Langworthy Professor of Physics. He later went on to Cambridge as the Cavendish professor of Physics.

While still in New Zealand, Rutherford's earliest research was in iron's magnetic properties when exposed to oscillations of high frequency. He was actually among the first to design experiments that used alternating currents.

When he arrived at Cambridge originally, he invented an electromagnetic wave detector, which used magnetized iron wire bundles as its magnetizing coil. He worked with senior professors on the reaction of gas ions when treated with X-rays, and ion mobility as it related to electric field strength. He noted alpha and beta rays found in uranium radiation, and described their properties.

While in Montreal, Rutherford worked further on radioactive bodies, especially alpha ray emissions. He discovered a previously unknown noble gas, which was a radon isotope, later to become known as thoron. He also collaborated with Frederick Soddy to create radioactivity's "disintegration theory". This regards radioactive phenomena as being atomic processes, not molecular processes. There was a good deal of experimental evidence to support this theory.

Rutherford continued research at Manchester on radium emanation properties. His work with atoms' inner structure led to the postulation of his nucleus concept. This is widely regarded as his greatest contribution to the science of physics. Corroborating with other minds of the day, he realized much about atomic structure that remains valid today.

He worked with elements to characterize them such that they could have atomic numbers assigned, and took this a step further, since now every element's properties could be defined by the number. He discovered the emission of fast protons in his work with light elements and energetic alpha particles. A co-worker in the field would later prove that nitrogen in a cloud chamber was transformed into an isotope of oxygen. So, Rutherford had been the first man to purposefully transmute one element into another.

Rutherford steered other future winners of the Nobel Prize toward their most notable achievements, and he was active in study and discovery until the last days of his life. In addition, he published a number of books that dealt with radioactivity and matter, and even with alchemy. In 1914, he was knighted, and earned many other accolades, including the Nobel Prize, before his death in 1937. It's interesting to note that his ashes would be buried in Westminster Abbey, near the tombs of Lord Kelvin and Sir Isaac Newton.


Rumor Has It

Rumor has it that Ernest Rutherford was also knighted by the cast members of Monte Python and that he had a peculiar hobby of "fish slapping" his younger brother.

Written by Kevin Lepton


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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