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An outstanding New Zealand Scientist, best some might say. Is he?
A boy named Ernest Rutherford was given birth near Nelson, New Zealand in 1871. He was very inventive in his early years, which he used to help his parents’ farm, He said, “We haven’t the money, so we’ve got to think”He received well education, despite the low income of his family, as his mother believed ‘all knowledge is power’.
Rutherford won an Exhibition of 1851 scholarship, after finishing three degrees at Canterbury College, which he used to study at the Cavendish Laboratory of the University of Cambridge. He became known for his bold hypothesis and predictions, also creative design experiments to test them.His early life really helped shape who he was, the ability to use his creativity and knowledge to solve problems, and gave him his boldness to explore the unknowns.
.Ernest spent most of his life in Universities, studying and researching what he love. First he attended Canterbury College in Christchurch, there he studied math and physics. In the process of it, he was influenced by two men before him. The first one is Alexander Bickerton, a liberal free thinker. Another is Nikola Tesla, mainly on his use of Tesla Coils to wirelessly transmit energy. While in Canterbury, he developed two devices, a magnetic detector with very fast current pulses, and a mechanism for switching two electrical circuits with a time interval.
Ernest Rutherford left New Zealand in 1895 as a well educated young man with three degrees from the University of New Zealand and had a reputation for being an outstanding researcher and innovator working at the forefront of electrical technology. His brilliance was already established during his days in Canterbury. He was Cambridge University’s first research student which is non-Cambridge-graduate , and was elected to work with Professor J J Thomson. In the laboratory, he mainly spent his earlier time there on wireless telegraphy. Later, JJ Thomson, who was about to discover the electron, first object smaller than an atom , invited him to join in a study of the electrical conduction of gases.Rutherford developed several ingenious techniques to study the electrical conduction of gases. X-rays were used to initiate electrical conduction in gases only after a few month it was discovered . He later does it with rays from radioactive atoms when they were discovered in 1896. During the tests, his interest moved from the electrical conduction of gases to the understanding of radioactivity itself, which achieved him and became his life’s work.
In 1898, Rutherford discovered two separate types of emissions which he named alpha and beta rays. Beta rays were soon discovered to be high speed electrons. Later in the year, he became a professor at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. At McGill, Rutherford discovered radon, a gas which is chemically unreactive but radioactive . On ground-breaking research into the transmutation of elements. His “disintegration theory” of radioactivity showed radioactive phenomena instead of molecular, its atomic. He also noticed that a sample of radioactive material invariably took the same amount of time for half the sample to decay, which is famously known as “half-life”. He propose that the property of “half-life” can be used to measure time to help determine the age of the Earth. For the discovery of “half-life” which greatly boosted the field of research in Nuclear Physics, he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908.
After his discovery, he left McGill and went to Manchester University. In 1907 he proved what he had long suspected, the alpha particle was a helium atom stripped of its electrons. He and one of his assistant, Hans Geiger, developed a method. Which is capable of detecting single particles emitted by radioactive atoms, and built the Rutherford-Geiger detector. With this he could determine important physical constants for example Avogadro’s number, also known as a mole.
Rutherford was knighted in the 1914 New Years Honours list and visited Australia and New Zealand for a scientific meeting and for a family reunion. Just before he reached Australia, The Great War was declared, After a three month visit to New Zealand Rutherford returned to Britain where he worked on finding methods to detect submarines for the British Admiralty’s Board of Invention and Research. Rutherford’s only progress made is his development of a directional hydrophone. Near the end of the war Rutherford returned to his normal non-war science. He became the first alchemist and the first person to split an atom by playing marbles by bombarding light atoms with alpha rays. He observed outgoing protons of energy larger than that of the incoming alpha particles, which showed that he correctly deduced that the bombardment had converted nitrogen atoms into oxygen atoms.
In 1919 Rutherford took the place of the Director of Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory. In 1925 Rutherford, he to visited his parents back in Australia and New Zealand, he gave public lectures on the way. Rutherford declared that he had always been very proud of being a New Zealander.
Ernest Rutherford died at aged 66 on the 19th of October 1937.Ernest Rutherford had contributed a tremendous amount of methods and ideas for the study of science. In his lifetime, he discovered a new element – radon; the idea of “half life” and the “disintegration theory”, which modern nuclear physics and several of other fields based on; Co-Invented the Rutherford-Geiger detector, the first device for measuring ionizing radiation, also better known as the Geiger Counter; He is the first person to split an atom, which is thought to be impossible at the time; “He is to the atom what Darwin is to evolution, Newton to mechanics, Faraday to electricity and Einstein to relativity”(John Campbell), his contribution to science and achievement in the field is parallel to those names are known by all, tied to science.
Therefore, there is no doubt, that he is the best New Zealander as a scientist.
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