CHAPTER 6: The Brits, Led by the “Crocodile” and His Boys, Take the Atom Apart: Ernest Rutherford (England, Scotland, Ireland, New Zealand, and Montreal)
Published:03 Dec 2019
Sir Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron of Nelson, and “his boys” largely established the modern nuclear model of the atom. We visit sites in New Zealand including the Lord Rutherford Memorial Reserve in Brightwater near his birthplace and Rutherford's Den in Christchurch, where he earned three baccalaureate degrees before postponing marriage and emigrating (as an “1851 man”) to England to work with J. J. Thomson in Cambridge. In Montreal, Canada, we visit the Rutherford Museum at McGill University to see the equipment he and Frederick Soddy used to unscramble a dizzying array of nuclear transformations and define half-life. In Manchester, England, he supervised the famous alpha-particle, gold-foil experiments that led to the discovery of the nucleus and carried out the first artificial nuclear transformation. We follow him back to the Cavendish in Cambridge, review how Harry Moseley established atomic numbers, and describe the “Cockcroft–Walton Machine” that produced confirming evidence for Einstein's E = mc2 and the results that led James Cavendish to discover the neutron. The crocodile carving at the Old Cavendish honors that “handsome hearty British lord we knew as Ernest Rutherford”. At the Museum at the Cavendish Laboratory many exhibits detail the work done by Rutherford and “his boys”.