Picture of Ernest Rutherford
The Bettmann Archive. From painting by James Gunn (1932).
Ernest Rutherford was a New Zealand-born physicist who lived between 1871-1937. He is considered the father of nuclear physics because of his theories on atomic structure.
Rutherford discovered that protons are concentrated at the center of an atom when he fired alpha particles at a thin metal foil and had them bounce back. He said 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".
Rutherford also named and characterized alpha and beta radiation, and showed how an element changes when it experiences radioactive decay.
Rutherford was more famous among his peers for his research in radio-waves. His experiments were the first to investigate "wireless" communication, years before the pioneers in the industry. The room used for his experiments is now a memorial, dedicated to the radio-wave research.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
What types of instructional experiences help K-8 students learn science with understanding? What do science educators teachers, teacher leaders, science specialists, professional development staff, curriculum designers, school administrators need to know to create and support such experiences?...more
Niels Bohr was a Danish physicist who lived between 1885-1962. He investigated atomic structure, modifying Rutherford's old model of an atom by confining electrons to orbits of specific radii. Bohr also...more
Florence Bascom (1862-1945) was one of the first female geologists in the United States and her colleagues regarded her as one of the nation’s most important geologists. In 1896 she was the first woman...more
Marie Curie was a physicist and chemist who lived between 1867-1934. She contributed greatly to our understanding of radioactivity and the effects of x-rays. She was born Maria Skłodowska in Warsaw,...more
Albert Einstein was a German physicist who lived between 1879-1955. His special and general theories of relativity, theory of Brownian motion, work in quantum physics, statistical mechanics, and on the...more
Robert Goddard was an American physicist who lived between 1882-1945. He was a pioneer of modern rocketry who discovered that liquid fuel is more efficient than solid fuel. Although Goddard's first rocket...more
Werner Heisenberg was a German physicist who lived between 1901-1976. He developed new theories in quantum mechanics which agreed with the results of previous experiments. Heisenberg is most famous for...more
Edwin Hubble was an American astronomer who lived between 1889-1953. He studied law at Oxford under a Rhodes scholarship before deciding on a career as an astronomer. This career eventually led to cosmology....more