Ernest Rutherford
Michael D. Robbins © 2003


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Earnest Rutherford—Scientist Clarifying the Nature of the Atom

August 30, 1871, Spring Grove, New Zealand. Time not known. Died October 19, 1937, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England.

(Sun Virgo; Moon either Capricorn or Aquarius; Mercury and Venus in Libra; Mars in Scorpio; Jupiter in Cancer; Saturn in Capricorn; Uranus in Leo; Neptune in Aries; Pluto in Taurus)


Think also of those who discovered “rays” and how they were on the seventh ray. Millikan and the Curies.


Of all created comforts, God is the lender; you are the borrower, not the owner.

All science is either physics or stamp collecting.
(Not spoken by a philatelist)

“If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.”
(Virgo Sun)

“The only possible conclusion the social sciences can draw is: some do, some don't”

“Don't let me catch anyone talking about the universe in my department”

The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage.

The energy produced by the breaking down of the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine.

"When we have found how the nucleus of atoms are built-up we shall have found the greatest secret of all - except life."
(Sagittarius Ascendant)

"You should never bet against anything in science at odds of more than about ten to the twelfth to one."

All of physics is either impossible or trivial. It is impossible until you understand it, and then it becomes trivial.

I have broken the machine and touched the ghost of matter. (on splitting the atom)
(Pluto quintile Uranus in Cancer & Moon in Pisces)

"A physicist's theories are worthless unless he can explain them to the
barmaid at the local pub."
(Moon in Pisces. Mercury in 9th house. North Node in Gemini.)

"It was as if you fired a 15-inch shell at a sheet of tissue paper and it
came back to hit you."

We haven't got the money, so we've got to think!

"Talk softly please. I have been engaged in experiments which suggest that the atom
can be artificially disintegrated. If it is true, it is of far greater importance than any war"

"The energy produced by the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformation of these atoms is talking moonshine."

"All science is either physics or stamp collecting"

"I have always been proud of the fact that I am a New Zealander"

"It was almost as incredible as if you fired a fifteen inch shell at a piece of tissue paper and it came back to hit you."


Ernest Rutherford
Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson
Born August 30, 1871
Brightwater, New Zealand
Died October 19, 1937
Cambridge, England
Residence UK
Nationality New Zealand- British
Field Physicist

Known for Being "the father" of nuclear physics
Notable prizes Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1908
Note that he is the father-in-law of Ralph Fowler. Rutherford had a DSc (1900) from the University of New Zealand.
Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson OM PC FRS (30 August 1871 – 19 October 1937), widely referred to as Lord Rutherford, was a nuclear physicist from New Zealand. He was known as the "father" of nuclear physics; he pioneered the orbital theory of the atom through his discovery of Rutherford scattering off the nucleus with his gold foil experiment.

Rutherford was born at Brightwater, near Nelson, New Zealand. He studied at Nelson College and won a scholarship to study at Canterbury College, University of New Zealand. In 1895, after gaining his BA, MA and BSc, and doing two years of research at the forefront of electrical technology, Rutherford travelled to England for postgraduate study at the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge (1895-1898), and was resident at Trinity College. There, he briefly held the world record for the distance over which electromagnetic waves could be detected. During the investigation of radioactivity he coined the terms alpha, beta, and gamma rays.

Middle years
In 1898 Rutherford was appointed to the chair of physics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he did the work which gained him the 1908 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He had demonstrated that radioactivity was the spontaneous disintegration of atoms. He noticed that in a sample of radioactive material it invariably took the same amount of time for half the sample to decay — its "half-life" — and created a practical application for this phenomenon using this constant rate of decay as a clock, which could then be used to help determine the actual age of the Earth that turned out to be much older than most scientists at the time believed.

In 1907 Rutherford took the chair of physics at the University of Manchester. There he directed the Geiger-Marsden experiment that discovered the nuclear nature of atoms and was the world's first successful "alchemist": he converted nitrogen into oxygen. While working with Niels Bohr (who postulated that electrons moved in specific orbits) Rutherford theorized about the existence of neutrons, which could somehow compensate for the repelling effect of the positive charges of protons by causing an attractive nuclear force and thus keeping the nuclei from breaking apart.

Later years

Lord Rutherford of Nelson on the New Zealand 100 dollar noteHe was knighted in 1914. In 1917 he returned to the Cavendish as Director. Under him, Nobel Prizes were awarded to Chadwick for discovering the neutron (in 1932), Cockcroft and Walton for splitting the atom using a particle accelerator and Appleton for demonstrating the existence of the ionosphere. He was admitted to the Order of Merit in 1925 and in 1931 was created Baron Rutherford of Nelson of Cambridge in the County of Cambridge, a title which became extinct upon his death.

Impact and legacy
Rutherford was known as "the crocodile". Engraving by Eric Gill at the original Cavendish site in Cambridge.His research, along with that of his protege, Sir Mark Oliphant was instrumental in the convening of the Manhattan Project. He is famously quoted as saying: "In science there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting." He is also reputed to have stated that the idea of using nuclear reaction to generate useful power was "moonshine".




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