Ernest Rutherford was born in Brightwater, near Nelson, New Zealand, on 30th August, 1871 to James Rutherford and Martha Thompson. His father was a farmer and his mother was an English school teacher. He received his early education in a Government School. He was a very brilliant student.
He received his B.Sc degree and simultaneously carried out many research works the following year. At age ten at Foxhill School Ernest received his first science book. It was this book which inspired him to make the miniature cannon out of a hat peg, a marble and blasting powder. Later he joined the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, from where he did his graduation in BA. He was also very much interested in sports. He was a Rugby player during his college days. In the year 1893, he completed his MA with double first class honours in Mathematics and physical sciences. His determination in sciences made him pursue BSc in Chemistry and Geology.
In the year 1894, he developed a magnetic detector to detect the radio waves which was constructed with very short current pulses in it. Ernest Rutherford designed a time-apparatus capable of measuring time intervals of a hundred-thousandth of a second. 1896 was the best rewarding year for Ernest, when he built one of the first radio receivers and held the world record in distance over which ?wireless? waves were detected. His constant experiments and research on various projects made him discover many more inventions to the field of science.
Rutherford?blew tobacco smoke into his ionisation chamber and observed the change in ionisation. Using this observation, he designed and built the first modern smoke detector. With the help of Geiger, he discovered the Rutherford-Gieger detector of single ionising particles in the year 1908.
His contributions to the world are enormous and remarkable. He also worked on finding the age of the earth. He realised that the final decayed product of uranium was lead. From this observation, he proposed the measure of relative proportions and the rate of decay of uranium atoms allow to merge with one another and with this technique he tried to find out the age of the formation of the Earth. In the year 1916, Ernest along with W H Bragg patented an apparatus for determining the direction of submarine sound.
In Rutherford?s gold foil experiment, he passed a stream of alpha particles from a radioactive source through a very thin gold foil. He observed the scattering of alpha particles as they pass through a thin gold foil. He labelled the two radiation types as ?alpha? and ?beta.? In the year 1911, he gave a brief explanation regarding the problem of radioactivity and discovered a radioactive gas which was later named as Radon. He also discovered a new element called Tritium.
The radioactive disintegration of the ?atoms helped him to derive the nuclear model of the atom. On the basis of the results obtained from the scattering experiments, Rutherford suggested an atomic model. Thus, he determined the structure of the atom. According to his atomic theory,
This model resembled the planetary motion in the solar system. Hence, Rutherford?s atomic model was also known as the planetary model. He was regarded as the world?s first alchemist for converting the nitrogen atoms into oxygen atoms, when allowed to collide with alpha particles from a source inside an horizontal enclosed tube.
During his lifetime?Rutherford?was awarded many scientific prizes and honorary degrees from many countries and Fellowships of many societies and organisations. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Royal Society of London, and inaugural Fellow of the New Zealand Institute. He served as the Director of the Cavendish Laboratory, President of the Royal Society of London, and Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, President of the Institute of Physics, President of the Academic Assistance Council. Ernest Rutherford was awarded with the Rumford Medal and became the member of Order of Merit. In the year 1914, he was knighted and was thereafter known as Lord Ernest Rutherford. In 1908, he was awarded with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Many buildings were named after him. To honour him, a statue of Ernest was built at his memorial in New Zealand. He has also appeared in the stamps of seven countries worldwide. In 1991 the Rutherford Origin was built on the site of his birth in rural Nelson.