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Ernest Rutherford Ernest Rutherford was born in New Zealand in 1871 as one of 12 children It was Rutherford who first split an atom and who discovered the atomic nucleus a name that he invented For this he is regarded as the greatest experimental physicist of his time Rutherford was one of the first and most important researchers in nuclear physics Soon after the discovery of radioactivity in 1986 by the French physicist Antoine Henri Becquerel Rutherford discovered the three different types of radiation By covering his Uranium with thin foils of aluminum gradually increasing the number of foils For the first three layers of foil the radiation escaping from the uranium decreased progressively suggesting an ordinary law of absorption More thickness of aluminum however had little further effect in reducing the radiation at first but eventually the intensity of the radiation began to diminish again as even more foils were added These experiments showed that there were at least two distinct types of radiation- one that is very readily absorbed which he called the alpha - radiation and the other more penetrative character which he called the beta - radiation He also had believed that he had found a third more penetrating radiation The Frenchman Paul Villard officially gave this third radiation He named it after Rutherfords first two radiation discoveries the gamma- radiation It was these discoveries in radiation that opened the door to the rest of Rutherford discoveries Using this alpha radiation Rutherford started to experiment putting it through other materials to get the effects It was in one of these experiments with gold that he was able to figure out what an atom looks like He found that a countable number of alpha particles actually bounced back from a thin sheet of gold foil Of course the majority of the particles went straight through the gold and were only slightly scattered Rutherford said that this was the most surprising
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