140th Birthday of Ernest Rutherford

  • ChemPubSoc Europe Logo
  • Author: ChemViews
  • Published Date: 30 August 2011
  • Copyright: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim
thumbnail image: 140th Birthday of Ernest Rutherford

Ernest Rutherford is known as the father of nuclear physics. Born on August 30th 1871 in New Zealand, he attended the University of New Zealand, Wellington, and graduated in 1893 with a double first in Mathematics and Physical Science. He moved to McGill University, Montreal, Canada, in 1898, where he worked on radioactive bodies, particularly on the emission of alpha rays. He differentiated and named alpha and beta radiation and discovered the concept of radioactive half-life. For this work, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908.

Rutherford performed his most famous work after he had moved to Cambridge University, UK, in 1907. His investigations into the scattering of alpha rays and the nature of the inner structure of the atom which caused such scattering led to the postulation of the "nucleus" as a concept. He was instrumental in defining elements by their atomic number.

Rutherford died in 1937 and was buried in Westminster Abbey, London, UK, next to other great scientists such as Newton and Kelvin. In 1997, element 104 was named rutherfordium in his honor.

(July 11, 2018)
We have changed the article to reflect historical research published in 2016. The article originally stated that Rutherford was the first to deliberately transmute one element into another—nitrogen into an oxygen isotope. However, it was Patrick Blackett, a research fellow working under Rutherford, who showed that a transmutation was taking place. We would like to thank Steven B. Krivit for bringing this to our attention.

See also


Article Views: 4538

Sign in Area

Please sign in below

Additional Sign In options

Please note that to comment on an article you must be registered and logged in.
Registration is for free, you may already be registered to receive, e.g., the newsletter. When you register on this website, please ensure you view our terms and conditions. All comments are subject to moderation.

Article Comments - To add a comment please sign in


Steve Krivit wrote:

First Transmutation of Elements

Rutherford was not the first to deliberately transmute one element into another—nitrogen into an oxygen isotope. It was performed, analyzed and published (only) by Patrick Blackett, a research fellow working under Rutherford. More information on this intriguing misappropriate of scientific credit: http://history.aip.org/history/exhibits/rutherford/sections/atop-physics-wave.html
Steven B. Krivit

Tue Jun 26 05:36:50 UTC 2018

Bookmark and Share

If you would like to reuse any content, in print or online, from ChemistryViews.org, please contact us first for permission. more


ChemistryViews.org on Facebook

ChemistryViews.org on Twitter ChemistryViews.org on YouTube ChemistryViews.org on LinkedIn Sign up for our free newsletter

A product of ChemPubSoc Europe (16 European Chemical Societies)and Wiley-VCH