Ernest Rutherford - World-Leading Innovator and Nobel Prize Winner
Ernest Rutherford came to Manchester from New Zealand, becoming the Langworthy Professor of Physics in 1907, and settling in the city until 1919. During his time in Manchester, Rutherford was a member of the Manchester Lit & Phil and served as Vice President from 1909 to 1912.
In the orbit of the Manchester Lit & Phil, Rutherford moved his research to the University of Manchester. His variations of the ‘gold foil experiment’ of Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden resulted in the discovery of the atomic nucleus from which Rutherford produced a model of the atom. For his pioneering efforts, Rutherford was awarded the Dalton medal in 1920.
At the University of Manchester, the Physics Laboratory was renamed The Rutherford Building in recognition of how the physicist transformed the University of Manchester’s nuclear physics department, allowing for future students to reap the benefits of Rutherford’s world-leading innovation.
It was also in the labs of the University of Manchester that Rutherford carried out his most influential—and daring!—experiment. Nitrogen gas was shattered against alpha particles and radiation was emitted. Rutherford deduced that this was the nucleus of a hydrogen atom. In short, this was the first splitting of the atom! For his efforts, Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1908.
- From our archive: Proceedings of an Ordinary Meeting of The Manchester Lit and Phil, held on 7th March 1991, where Rutherford read a paper on his research
- The National Archives website lists the locations of various papers relating to Rutherford, including correspondence and notebooks