Ernest Rutherford, New Zealand physicist

Ernest Rutherford, New Zealand physicist

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Credit: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Sir Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), New Zealand physicist. Rutherford's work contributed to the understanding of atomic structure. In 1909 he fired helium ions (alpha particles) at thin gold foil and observed the scattering pattern. A few particles were deflected by large amounts, implying that the atomic nucleus is very small and positively charged. He won the 1908 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for showing that radioactivity was the spontaneous decay of atoms, and that the time taken for half a radioactive sample to decay was constant (the half life). This photograph is from the Bain News Service, one of the USA's earliest news picture libraries. The photographs date from the 1890s to the 1930s.

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