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What Is A Nuclear Physicist ?Nuclear physics is the ﬁeld of physics that studies thebuilding blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The mostcommonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclearpower generation and nuclear weapons technology, but theresearch has provided application in many ﬁelds, includingthose in nuclear medicine and magnetic resonance imaging,ion implantation in materials engineering, and radiocarbondating in geology and archaeology.The ﬁeld of particle physics evolved out of nuclear physicsand is typically taught in close association with nuclearphysics.
Ernest Rutherford ChildhoodErnest Rutherford was the son of James Rutherford. Who was a successful farmer. HisMother Martha Thompson, originally from Hornchurch, Essex, England. James hademigrated to New Zealand from Perth, Scotland, "to raise a little ﬂax and a lot of children".Ernest was born at Spring Grove (now Brightwater), near Nelson, New Zealand on the 30thof August 1871. His ﬁrst name was mistakenly spelled Earnest when his birth was registered.He studied at Havelock School and then Nelson College and won a scholarship to study atCanterbury College, University of New Zealand where he was president of the debatingsociety, among other things. After gaining his BA, MA and BSc, and doing two years ofresearch at the forefront of electrical technology, in 1895 Rutherford travelled to England forpostgraduate study at the Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge (1895–1898), andhe brieﬂy held the world record for the distance over which electromagnetic waves could bedetected.In 1898 Rutherford was appointed to succeed Hugh Longbourne Callendar in the chair ofMacdonald Professor of physics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he did thework that gained him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908. In 1900 he gained a DSc fromthe University of New Zealand. Also in 1900 he married Mary Georgina Newton (1876–1945);they had one daughter, Eileen Mary (1901–1930), who married Ralph Fowler. In 1907Rutherford moved to Britain to take the chair of physics at the University of Manchester.
Ernest Rutherford CarerErnest Rutherford was the ﬁrst person to split theatom. He ﬁrst "split the atom" in 1917 in a nuclearreaction between nitrogen and alpha particles, inwhich he also discovered (and named) the proton.This led to the ﬁrst experiment to split thenucleus in a fully controlled manner, performedby two students working under his direction, JohnCockcroft and Ernest Walton, in 1932. Spitting theatom led to the ﬁrst nuclear boom.
Ernest Rutherford The Nuclear PhysicistRutherfords research, and work done under him as laboratorydirector, established the nuclear structure of the atom and theessential nature of radioactive decay. Rutherfords team alsodemonstrated artiﬁcially induced nuclear transmutation. He isknown as the father of nuclear physics. Rutherford died tooearly to see Leó Szilárds idea of controlled nuclear chainreactions come into being. However, a speech of Rutherfordsabout artiﬁcially induced transmutation printed in theSeptember 12, 1933 London paper The Times is reported bySzilárd to have been his inspiration for thinking of thepossibility of a controlled nuclear chain reaction, in London, onthe same day.
Ernest Rutherford Scientiﬁc ResearchDuring the investigation of radioactivity he coined the terms alpharay and beta ray in 1899 to describe the two distinct types of radiationemitted by thorium and uranium. These rays were differentiated onthe basis of penetrating power. From 1900 to 1903 he was joined atMcGill by the young Frederick Soddy (Nobel Prize in Chemistry,1921) and they collaborated on research into the transmutation ofelements. Rutherford had demonstrated that radioactivity was thespontaneous disintegration of atoms. He noticed that a sample ofradioactive material invariably took the same amount of time for halfthe sample to decay—its "half-life"—and created a practicalapplication using this constant rate of decay as a clock, which couldthen be used to help determine the age of the Earth, which turnedout to be much older than most of the scientists at the time believed.