Ernest Rutherford

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by Alicein
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Scientific Biographies
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Ernest Rutherford

Who is Rutherford?

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Ernest Rutherford

Gold Foil Experiment

By: Alicein Killingsworth

Ernest Rutherford lived from August 30th, 1871 to October 19th, 1937.He worked on radioactivity, coining the terms "alpha" and "beta" to discribe two different types of radiation emitted by uranium and thorium. He observed this radioactive material which took the same amount of time for half of it to decay, known as half life. The element "Rutherfordium" (104) was named in his honor. Through these studies of absorption, he used thin sheets of metal foil and found the "alpha" and "beta" radiations as well as "gamma" rays.Rutherford also discovered the nucleus of the atom in 1911.He predicted the atomic nucleus was similar to the solar system.

Rutherford assumed the positive charge and mass of an atom are concentrated in a small fraction of the total volume. His prediction was verified.He proposed a model for the structure that is still accepted today. He concluded that all of the positive charge and essentially all of the mass of the atom is concentrated in a small fraction of the total volume, which he called the nucleus. The nucleus is estimated 10,000 times smaller than the radius of the atom.

After his radioactivity discovery, he turned to the study of the particles emitted by uranium metal and its compounds. He developed a way to count these individual particles. A screen that is coated with Zinc Sulfide emitted a flash of light each time it was hit by a particle. Rutherford and his assistant, Hans Geiger, sat in the complete darkness until their eyes got sensitive. They then started to count flashes of light from the ZnS screen. He found these particles passed through the thin sheet of metal. He had Gieger measure the angle of the particles that scattered the thin metal foil. Gold can be made into a foil that is only 0.00004 cm thick, since it is ductile. He soon found out it was scattered in one degree. "Why not let him (Ernest Marsden) see whether any particles can be scattered through angles larger than 90 degrees?" Rutherford asked.Ernest Marsden worked with Rutherford in his laboratory, and he found that a small fraction of the particles were scattered in angles larger than 90 degrees.

Conclusion of The Gold Foil Experiment

All Science is either physics or stamp collecting.


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