Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, OM PC FRS (30 August 1871 – 19 October 1937) was a nuclear physicist from New Zealand. He was known as the "father" of nuclear physics. He pioneered the orbital theory of the atom in his discovery of Rutherford scattering off the nucleus with the gold foil experiment.
- See also:
- Radio-activity (1904)
- Radioactivity is shown to be accompanied by chemical changes in which new types of matter are being continually produced. ... The conclusion is drawn that these chemical changes must be sub-atomic in character.
- "The Cause and Nature of Radioactivity" in Philosophical Magazine (September 1902)
- It is not in the nature of things for any one man to make a sudden violent discovery; science goes step by step, and every man depends on the work of his predecessors. When you hear of a sudden unexpected discovery—a bolt from the blue, as it were—you can always be sure that it has grown up by the influence of one man on another, and it is this mutual influence which makes the enormous possibility of scientific advance. Scientists are not dependent on the ideas of a single man, but on the combined wisdom of thousands of men, all thinking of the same problem, and each doing his little bit to add to the great structure of knowledge which is gradually being erected.
- As quoted in The Birth of a New Physics (1959) by I. Bernard Cohen
- All science is either physics or stamp collecting.
- As quoted in Rutherford at Manchester (1962) by J. B. Birks
- Unsourced variants:
- That which is not measurable is not science. That which is not physics is stamp collecting.
- Physics is the only real science. The rest are just stamp collecting.
- That which is not measurable is not science. — (which is also attributed to Lord Kelvin)
- It was quite the most incredible event that has ever happened to me in my life. It was almost as incredible as if you fired a 15-inch shell at a piece of tissue paper and it came back and hit you.
- Discussing the result of an experiment where about 1 out of 8000 alpha particles were scattered backwards when fired at a thin sheet of metal foil, which led to the discovery of the atomic nucleus, as quoted in Rutherford and the Nature of the Atom (1964) by E. N. da C. Andrade, p. 111, and in Nobel Laureates in chemistry, 1901-1992 by Laylin K. James, p. 57
- Don't let me catch anyone talking about the Universe in my department.
- As quoted by John Kendrew in "J.D. Bernal and the Origin of Life," BBC Radio Talk (26 July 1968), and in Biographical Encyclopedia of Scientists, Third Edition by John Daintith, p. 662
- An alleged scientific discovery has no merit unless it can be explained to a barmaid.
- As quoted in Einstein: The Man and His Achievement (1973) by G. J. Whitrow, p. 42
- If you can't explain your physics to a barmaid it is probably not very good physics.
- As quoted in Journal of Advertising Research (March-April 1998)
- A theory that you can't explain to a bartender is probably no damn good.
- As quoted in The Language of God (2006) by Francis Collins, p.60
- When we have found how the nucleus of atoms is built up we shall have found the greatest secret of all — except life. We shall have found the basis of everything — of the earth we walk on, of the air we breathe, of the sunshine, of our physical body itself, of everything in the world, however great or however small — except life.
- As quoted in The Wit and Wisdom of the 20th Century : A Dictionary of Quotations (1987) by Frank S. Pepper, p. 226
- I came into the room which was half-dark and presently spotted Lord Kelvin in the audience, and realised that I was in for trouble at the last part of my speech dealing with the age of the Earth, where my views conflicted with his.
To my relief, Kelvin fell fast asleep, but as I came to the important point, I saw the old bird sit up, open an eye and cock a baleful glance at me.
Then a sudden inspiration came, and I said Lord Kelvin had limited the age of the Earth, provided no new source [of heat] was discovered. That prophetic utterance referred to what we are now considering tonight, radium! Behold! The old boy beamed upon me.
- I must confess it was very unexpected and I am very startled at my metamorphosis into a chemist.
- On his 1908 Nobel Prize in chemistry, as quoted in Nobel Laureates and Twentieth-Century Physics (2004) by Mauro Dardo, p. 69
- We've got no money, so we've got to think.
- As quoted in Quips, Quotes, and Quanta : An Anecdotal History of Physics (2007) by Anton Z. Capri, page 65.
- Unsourced variant: We didn't have the money, so we had to think.
- Biography at Nobelprize.org
- Ernest Rutherford Scientist Supreme
- The Rutherford Journal
- NZedge.com article on Ernest Rutherford
- Biography in 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
- "Brief profile at A Science Odyssey, pbs.org
- Nobel Lecture The Chemical Nature of the Alpha Particles from Radioactive Substances from Nobelprize.org website
- The Rutherford Museum