Ernest Rutherford

and how he helped create the atom.

Background information

I was born on a farm in New Zealand near Bridgewater on August 30, 1871. My family was poor and we had to keep a tight budget. In 1889, I won a scholarship to study at Canterbury College, Christchurch. After obtaining my degree in mathematics and physics, I studied at Trinity College of Cambridge University. My colleague were very creative in coming up with my nickname of "crocodile", because I always looked ahead. In 1900, I married my beautiful wife Mary Newton, and together we had a daughter, Eileen. My legacy ended on October 19th, 1937 from a strangulated hernia. My family had me buried at Westminster Abbey.


Rutherford is responsible for creating the terms “alpha”, “beta”, “gamma waves”, “proton”, “neutron”, and “daughter atom”. He was the first scientist to split the atom in 1920. Despite popular belief, Rutherford realized that elements could shed atoms to become a new element. He was the founder of the modern atomic theory and received the Nobel Prize in 1908. Discovered the the theory of radioactive decay, proving the one atom could become another by emitting radiation. AKA “spontaneous radiation”. Rutherford is also accredited with the discovery of the atomic nucleus and the model of the atom with electrons revolving around the nucleus. He set the base foundation of understanding for modern day physicists. The presence of the neutron was also discovered by Rutherford. He also helped define the relationship between atoms and elements.