Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron of Rutherford and Nelson (1871-1937)

British physicist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry.

Rutherford attended state primary schools at Foxhill and Havelock until 1886, whereupon he won a scholarship from the Board of Education and went to Nelson College in 1887. In 1890 he went on to Canterbury College and began to study advanced physics in 1892, graduating with a Masters Degree in 1893. He published his first paper in 1894, titled Magnetisation of Iron by High-frequency Discharge. He then moved to Trinity College, Cambridge in 1895.

Rutherford was interested in the wireless transmission of signals. At Cambridge he developed a method of creating these and was soon detecting them in his home over half a mile away - a record at the time. He went on to demonstrate his methods at the meeting of the British Association held at Liverpool in 1896.

He then examined the nature of the ionising radiation emitted by gases following irradiation by uranium. He identified two distinct types that he named alpha and beta.

Rutherford left Cambridge in 1898 and in the same year was elected to the Macdonald Research Professorship of Physics at McGill University, Montreal.

In 1902 Rutherford and his assistant Frederick Soddy developed the revolutionary theory that radioactivity is caused by the spontaneous transformation of the atoms of radioactive elements into different kinds of matter.

Rutherford went on describe in detail his nuclear theory of atoms, and in 1911 evolved a model that went on to influence every branch of science.

Rutherford was elected President of the Royal Society in 1925. He became Baron Rutherford of Nelson in 1931 and died in Cambridge after a short illness in 1937.