Rutherford (1871-1937) was born in Spring Grove, New Zealand on
the 30 of August 1871. In 1895 he came second in a competition to attend Cambridge
University in England. He spent much of his time working on X rays. By now he had moved to
Montreal and become a Professor of Physics. In 1908 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for
tracking down various disintegration products and emanations and relating them to their
He went on to name the alpha and beta particles and the
gamma ray. He also invented the name proton for the nucleus of an atom.
Rutherford discovered that protons are concentrated at the centre of an atom. He investigated the way that alpha particles scattered when
they were used to bombard thin metal foils. He was curious to see how widely they
could be deflected form their original path. He was amazed to see that some particles
actually reversed. "It was as if you had fired a 15-inch naval shell at a piece of
tissue paper and the shell came right back and hit you," he commented.
During World War I his research was interrupted and
he worked instead on echo sounding to detect submarines. In 1918 he resumed his work and
for the first time artificially changed a nitrogen atom's form by disrupting its nucleus.
Rutherford became the first man to split the atom. In 1919 he went back to Cambridge to
head the Cavendish Laboratory. He presided over the new style physics, the investigation
of the nucleus.