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Ernest Rutherford 1871-1937 Ernest Rutherford was born in Nelson New Zealand Rutherford demonstrated his abilities as a scientist early on while working on his BSc at the University of New Zealand in 1894 He showed that the magnetization can be removed from a magnetized iron needle by dissolving the surface layer of the metal in acid He began work at Cambridge in 1895 and was a professor at the University of Manchester from 1907 on It is during this time period that Rutherford made his most important discoveries Most of Rutherfords work was centered on radioactivity He is the one who named the alpha and beta particles In 1911 Rutherford conducted his famous gold foil experiment He directed alpha particles at a thin sheet of gold foil and expected the particles to simply travel straight through the foil However he obtained very different results Although many of the particles did in fact go straight through the foil some of them were deflected at large angles Rutherford concluded that the deflections of the alpha particles were caused by a center of positive charge that contained most of the atoms mass the nucleus He also explained that the particles that went straight through the foil did so because the atom is mostly empty space and that the distance between electrons and the nucleus is vast compared to the size of the nucleus itself In 1919 he discovered the artificial disintegration of nitrogen His experiments show that under alpha radiation nitrogen is decomposed and hydrogen is formed Rutherford also devised an electrical method for counting the number of alpha particles emitted from radioactive substances Using this method he measured the number of alpha particles expelled per second from one gram of radium to be 34000 Before Rutherford the smallest particle of matter was represented as a solid ball Rutherfords experiments with the decay of radioactive elements caused him to
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