Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson
OM, FRS (30 August 1871–19 October 1937) was a British-New Zealand chemist and physicist who became known as the father of
nuclear physics. In early work he discovered the concept of radioactive half life, proved that radioactivity involved the transmutation of one chemical element to another, and also differentiated and named alpha and beta radiation.
He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908 "for his Investigations into the disintegration of the elements, and the
chemistry of radioactive substances". Rutherford performed his most famous work after he received this prize. In 1911, he postulated that atoms have their positive charge concentrated in a very small nucleus, and thereby pioneered the Rutherford model, or planetary, model of the atom, through his discovery and interpretation of Rutherford scattering in his gold foil experiment.
He is widely credited with first splitting the atom in 1917, and leading the first experiment to "split the nucleus" in a controlled manner by two students under his direction, John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton in 1932.
Ernest Rutherford was knighted in the New Year's Honours List for 1914. This was in time for a visit to Australasia where the British Association for the Advancement of Science was to hold its annual conference that year.
He became a Member of the Order of Merit (Civil Badge) in the New Year's Honour's List for 1925. At that time the order was restricted to 24 living persons. The Order of Merit was the unfettered and personal gift of the Sovereign to such persons, being subjects of Our Crown, as may have rendered meritorious service in Our Army and Our Navy or towards the advancement of Art, Literature and Science.
Ernest Rutherford was raised to the peerage in the New Year's Honours list of 1931, a week after his daughter Eileen had died. At the time May Rutherford was in New Zealand visiting her mother. She thought it would be appropriate if he chose as his territorial designation a New Zealand name. Christchurch and Nelson were too English sounding so she suggested Lord Rutherford of Havelock, where he had got his educational start. He had already selected Lord Rutherford of Nelson, in honour of my birthplace and home of my grandfather.
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