Sir Ernest Rutherford - Encyclopedia


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"SIR ERNEST RUTHERFORD (1871-), British physicist, was born at Nelson, New Zealand, on Aug. 30 1871. He was educated at Nelson College and Canterbury College, Christchurch. After graduating at the New Zealand University (M.A. 1893 and B.Sc. 1894), he proceeded with an 1851 science exhibition to Cambridge, where he entered Trinity College and prosecuted researches in the Cavendish laboratory, Sir J. J. Thomson being then the Cavendish professor. He published numerous researches upon the conduction of electricity through gases, for which he obtained the B.A. Research degree and the CouttsTrotter studentship in 1897. In the following year he was appointed Macdonald professor of physics in McGill University, Montreal. There he carried out a series of brilliant investigations, in conjunction with Soddy, which established upon a firm basis the existence and nature of radioactive transformations. In 1903 he was elected F.R.S. In 1907 he succeeded Sir Arthur Schuster as Langworthy professor of physics in the university of Manchester, and he attracted there a large school of radioactive research workers. In collaboration with several of these the science of radioactivity was rapidly developed: among other work the production of helium as a product of disintegration of radium was shown spectroscopically, the spectrum of the emanation measured, the number of a particles (charged helium atoms) during a disintegration process counted, the properties of numerous radioactive products and the radiations accompanying their formation examined. Among the most important of the researches emanating from his laboratory was that of the experimental demonstration of the nuclear nature of the atom. It was also in his laboratory that Moseley determined the X-ray spectra of a number of elements. Rutherford was knighted in 1914 and in 1919 succeeded Sir J. J. Thomson as Cavendish professor of experimental physics in the university of Cambridge. Many British and foreign honours and degrees were bestowed upon him: the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society (1905), the Barnard Medal (1910), Bressa Prize (1908), and Nobel Prize for chemistry (1908). In 1920 he was appointed professor of physics at the Royal Institution, London. His works include Radioactivity (1904), Radioactive Transformations (1906), Radioactive Substances and their Radiations (1912).

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