Friday, August 30, 2013
August 30 - Ernest Rutherford
Physicist and chemist Ernest Rutherford was born on August 30, 1871, in New Zealand. A farm boy from the South Island, he spent most of his life as a professor at McGill University in Montreal and at Manchester University and Cambridge University in the UK. His early work in Canada was the basis for his Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1908) for discovering the concept of radioactive half-life, proving that radioactivity involves one chemical element changing into another, and differentiating types of radiation. His “gold foil experiment” at Manchester investigated the structure of the atom, showing for the first time the existence of the atomic nucleus and fostering development of the Rutherford (planetary) model of the atom, with orbital electrons. He is credited with first "splitting the atom" (1917) in a nuclear reaction in which he discovered and named the proton. In 1921, working with his student, Niels Bohr, he theorized about the existence of neutrons. Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics, is considered one of the greatest experimentalists since Michael Faraday.