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Who was Ernest Rutherford?

Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937)Rutherford, Ernest (1871-1937): Born in New Zealand, Rutherford studied under J. J. Thomson at the Cavendish Laboratory in England. His work constituted a notable landmark in the history of atomic research as he developed Bacquerel's discovery of Radioactivity into an exact and documented proof that the atoms of the heavier elements, which had been thought to be immutable, actually disintegrate (decay) into various forms of radiation.

Rutherford was the first to establish the theory of the nuclear atom and to carry out a transmutation reaction (1919) (formation of hydrogen and and oxygen isotope by bombardment of nitrogen with alpha particles). Uranium emanations were shown to consist of three types of rays, alpha (helium nuclei) of low penetrating power, beta (electrons), and gamma, of exceedingly short wavelength and great energy.

Ernest Rutherford also discovered the half-life of radioactive elements and applied this to studies of age determination of rocks by measuring the decay period of radium to lead-206.

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Henri Bacquerel

Henri Bacquerel (1851-1908): A French physicist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with the Curies for the discovery of the radioactivity of uranium salts. He also discovered the deflection of electrons by a magnetic field, as well as the existence and properties of gamma radiation. Back to Rutherford

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