Rutherford, Ernest


Physicist, born in New Zealand. Did most of his work at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, England. He investigated radioactivity, and developed the nuclear theory of atomic structure.

Rutherford's work constituted a landmark in the history of atomic research as he developed Bacquerel's (and Marie Curie's) discovery of Radioactivity into an exact and documented proof that the atoms of the heavier elements, which had been thought to be immutable, actually disintegrate into various forms of radiation.

He introduced much of the language to describe nuclear physics. Particles named and characterized by him include the alpha particle, beta particle and proton.

He also discovered the half-life of radioactive elements and applied this to studies of age determination of rocks by measuring the decay period of radium to lead-206.
Received the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1908.

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