Ernest Rutherford

Everything you need to know about Ernest Rutherford!

A brief background on Rutherford

Ernest Rutherford was born in Spring Grove, South Island of New Zealand on August 30, 1871. He is one of 12 children in his family. As Ernest was growing up after school he would milk the cows and help doing other chores around the house. “We haven’t the money so we’ve got to think” was Ernest’s motto when he was younger because their family didn’t have lots of money to support themselves. Rutherford would invent little things to sell to help raise money for his parents.

When Rutherford turned 10 years old he received his first science book at Foxhill School. This book was very special because this is what launched his scientific journey. In 1887 he got a scholarship to attend the Nelson Collegiate School that he would have to attend until 1889. In 1890 he received another scholarship to a school called Canterbury College in Christchurch, New Zealand. Rutherford got his Bachelor of Arts and his Master of Arts, he also got first class honors in math and science. In 1894 was when Ernest did independent research on the ability of high frequency electrical discharge to magnetize iron. In just that year he received his Bachelor of Science.


Below is a picture of Ernest Rutherford and his assistant in the lab!

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How Ernest Rutherford Developed a New Atomic Model

  1. Ernest Rutherford added on to the worlds understanding of atoms by discovering the nucleus. When doing the Gold Foil Experiment he discovered a clump in the middle of an atom that we know as the nucleus.

The Rutherford Experiment

  1. In the Rutherford Experiment helium nuclei containing two positive charges (also called alpha particles) were diffracted by a thin foil made of gold metal. On the opposite side of the gold foil was a zinc sulfide screen that emits a flash of light when struck by an alpha particle. There was also an adjustable slit width and as the slit was opened to widths greater than 2 nano meters, some of the alpha particles would collide with the gold nuclei causing them to deflect and deviate from the straight path of particles.

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Rutherford's changes

Ernest Rutherford tested J.J Thompson’s belief with his gold foil experiment. Where Thompson's belief is that the mass in an atom is fully spread out then there should not be a strong reaction. When Rutherford tested his experiment he learned that when energy(alpha particles) was shot at the gold foil they did not react and almost went ‘straight through’ also in his experiment it turned out that he believed that the gold foil was just small patches of denseness throughout. Few particles did bounce back showing us that an atom is hard, and dense. During the experiment he learned that the area where the energy did not go through was known as the nucleus. Rutherford is credited for the invention of the nucleus because the middle is where the atom was the heaviest so in the beginning he referred to it as a clump in the middle. Later he renamed it to the 'nucleus' to show the importance.

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Fun facts on Rutherford!

  1. On Ernest's birth certificate they spelt his name wrong, on his birth certificate it is spelled his first name: 'Earnest'
  2. Both of his brothers died from drowning in 1886.
  3. There is an element named 'rutherfordium' after him.
  4. He was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Ernest Rutherford's Gold Foil Experiment Chemistry Visual