Ernest Rutherford

Why is he important?

Early Life


Born in New Zealand

Fun Fact: Taught Robert Boyle and Neils Bohr


  • In the Physics and Chemistry field
  • Worked at McGill University in Canada, University of Cambridge, and University of Manchester
  • Discovered idea of radioactive half-life
  • Credited with the first splitting of the atom in 1917
  • Earned Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his theory of atomic structure in 1908
  • Focused on nuclear reactions in his late career

Major Contributions

  • Came up with Rutherford model of atom; said that their charge was in a small nucleus
  • Most famous experiment happened after the Nobel Prize
  • Experiment with Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsten called the Geiger-Marsten experiment, also called the Gold Foil Experiment
  • It showed the nuclear nature of atoms by deflecting alpha particles passing through a thin gold foil

BIG IDEA: Came up with the nuclear structure of the atom