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Ernest Rutherford Life

by Javed Pasha
Ernest Rutherford Life

Ernest Rutherford Life

Ernest Rutherford was born on 30 August 1871 in Brightwater, New Zealand and died on 19 October 1937 (aged 66) at Cambridge, England. He was an English physicist who became known as the father of nuclear physics.

There are many things to know about his life which are described briefly later.

We can learn a lot from Ernest Rutherford life.


Ernest Rutherford Childhood Life

 Ernest Rutherford is famous for his work in the field of radioactivity, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908.

Early Life

Ernest Rutherford was born on August 30, 1871, in Brightwater, New Zealand. His father was James Rutherford, a Scottish farmer and amateur scientist. His mother was Martha Thompson Rutherford. Ernest had two older siblings: Walter James and Mary Isabella Rutherford.

Rutherford’s father died when he was just three years old, so his mother moved her family to Spring Grove near Hastings, New Zealand where she taught at a private school.

Ernest Rutherford Life


Ernest Rutherford Middle Age Life

Ernest Rutherford started working at Canterbury College in Christchurch as an assistant librarian at the age of 19. He later moved to the University of New Zealand where he worked as an instructor for two years until 1893 when he became interested in physics and mathematics and decided to pursue a career with these areas of study instead of biology which is what he originally wanted to do with his life (Rutherford).

In 1895 Rutherford went back to England where he attended Cambridge University to study experimental physics under J.J. Thompson who was one of the greatest physicists of all time (Rutherford).

While attending Cambridge University Rutherford met Hans Geiger who would later become one of his best friends and colleagues


Ernest Rutherford Educational Life

Ernest Rutherford attended high school at Christ’s College in Christchurch and later entered Canterbury College where he studied mathematics, physics and chemistry under the tutelage of Thomas Brackenridge Wilson.

In 1893, he earned his Bachelor’s degree with first class honours in mathematics and science.

In 1895, Rutherford began working at McGill University in Montreal as an assistant to Professor John William Dawson where he conducted research on the properties of gases at very low temperatures.


Ernest Rutherford Work Life

In 1893 he became an associate professor at McGill University in Canada where he taught physics for ten years before moving on to Cambridge University in England where he worked with J.J.

Thomson on cathode rays or electron beams as they were called then. At Cambridge he also met Niels Bohr who shared similar interests and became lifelong friends with him too!

In 1899 Ernest Rutherford received his PhD from Cambridge University for research on radioactivity (thesis title; “Investigations into the nature of matter and radiation”).

His thesis included a description of experiments with nitrogen atoms bombarded by alpha particles from radium bromide sources which showed that these collisions produced hydrogen nuclei (protons).

This work would later become one of the cornerstones for his construction of the modern atomic model, but it took another 5 years before he published these results in 1904 


Ernest Rutherford Theories

Ernest Rutherford, who has been called “the father of nuclear physics,” was born on August 30, 1871, in Nelson, New Zealand, and grew up on a farm.

He attended Canterbury University College in New Zealand and later moved to Cambridge University in England. In 1911, he won the Nobel Prize for chemistry.

Rutherford discovered that one type of radiation, alpha rays, could be stopped by a piece of paper while another type, beta rays, could penetrate metal.

He also discovered that atoms have a small dense nucleus at their center, surrounded by orbiting electrons. This discovery provided the first evidence of the existence of neutrons.

In 1919 Rutherford conducted an experiment to determine whether the atom was composed mainly of empty space or solid matter.

He fired a stream of alpha particles at a thin sheet of gold foil and observed how many were scattered backward by the atom’s positive charge or blocked by its mass. Rutherford concluded that most space within an atom must be empty and that most mass is concentrated in a tiny nucleus at its center.

The discovery that atoms are mostly empty space led Rutherford to conduct other experiments involving radioactive elements such as polonium and radium. 


Ernest Rutherford Achievements

Rutherford discovered that certain elements can be changed into other elements by bombarding them with alpha particles (atoms of helium).

He showed that radioactivity consists of a rapid process, and named this process disintegration.

He discovered the phenomenon of radioactive half-life, and discovered two different types of alpha decay.

-Discovering that the atom has a nucleus.

-Conducting experiments to determine whether atoms were made up of smaller particles or waves.

-Receiving the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1908 for discovering radioactive half-lives and producing radioactive isotopes by separating out nitrogen isotopes through alpha-particle bombardment of nitrogen gas (a process now known as “gaseous disintegration”).


Interesting Facts About Ernest Rutherford

Sir Ernest Rutherford was born on August 30, 1871 at Spring Grove House in Brightwater, New Zealand. His parents were James and Martha Rutherford. He was the fourth child of twelve children born to his parents.

Rutherford graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1891 from Canterbury College, University of New Zealand (present-day University of Canterbury).

In 1895, he received a Masters degree in electrical engineering from Canterbury College after completing a thesis titled “A Magnetic Detector of Electricity.”

But there’s more to Rutherford than just his work in physics. He was also an incredible teacher, he won a Nobel prize for Chemistry, and he was maybe the first person to use nuclear energy for something other than warfare (he used it to create gold from mercury). Here are some other interesting facts about this great scientist and teacher.


Ernest Rutherford Death

on October 19, 1937, Ernest Rutherford died. He was honored with a state funeral in New Zealand and was buried in the village of Ngatimoti, near Nelson. He is also remembered on a memorial plaque in Westminster Abbey, among the greats of science.

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