Ernest Rutherford

Performer of the gold foil experiment 1871-1937

The Gold Foil Experiment

Testing Thompson's idea of the "plum-pudding model," Rutherford got a sheet of gold foil, which was about eight atoms thick, and got a sample of radioactive radium. The radium began to decompose to release two neutrons and two protons, which were particles made to pass through the gold foil. Since particles passed through undisturbed this meant that the atoms were composed of empty space, but every once in a while the alpha particle would deflect.


-gold foil

-detecting screen

-positive alpha particles

Major Discoveries

With the results from the gold foil experiment, Rutherford came to realize that the structure of the atom wasn't similar to the plum pudding, where the nucleus was a positive mass with negative electrons randomly throughout it, but it was composed of empty space and contained a positive nucleus. With these discoveries, Rutherford eventually developed the planetary model of the atom, where electrons orbited the positive protons.
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