Nuclear Bombs, Basic atomic structure, carbon dating. These are all linked by one person, Ernest Rutherford. Ernest Rutherford was born in Nelson in 1871. His mother believed “all knowledge is power” and so ensured he and his siblings received a good education. He went to Havelock school and then Nelson college before he won a scholarship to the University of Canterbury, University of New Zealand. He graduated with 3 degrees. From there he went on to make 3 significant scientific discoveries. The first was that heavy elements decayed over time. This is the basis of carbon dating is based upon. The second was the discovery of basic atomic structure. This is now one of the basics in chemistry. The final and most influential discovery was the splitting an atom. This lead to the development of nuclear power and nuclear bombs. Today I am going to be talking to you about how Kiwi determination lead to these discoveries and why I admire him.
I admire Ernest Rutherford because he faced adversity but still became one of the leading scientist of his time. After graduating from canterbury college he received a research fellowship to travel to England and study at cambridge university in the Cavendish Laboratory. He was one of the first people to be awarded the fellowship that didn’t have a cambridge degree meaning he became part of the group with the derogatory title ‘alien’. This was because newcomers aroused jealousy in more conservative parts of the University. At the cavendish laboratory he studied under JJ. Thompson. From there he moved to Montreal Canada to become the head of physics at McGill University. Before starting this job he returned to New Zealand to marry Mary Georgina Newton. Then in 1907 he returned to britain to take the chair of physics at Victoria University. Finally in 1919 he returned to Cavendish Laboratory to become the Director and Professor there. During this time he received a Nobel prize, the order of merit, a knightship and finally a baronship. This made him the first baron of Nelson. Would you like to know why you should admire him? He was an normal kid from a average family who was born in New Zealand, and he became one of the most influential scientists of his time. His discoveries lead to a more knowledgeable science but also the most deadly weapon of all time the Hydrogen Bomb. Have you heard of a proton, a gamma ray or atomic decay? He explaned or discovered each of these and many more. The world would be very different if it weren’t for Ernest Rutherford, for better or for worse.
Ernest Rutherford was very much a kiwi at heart. This is very evident in his crest as it bore two kiwis and a maori warrior on it. This patriotism lead to a very strong sense of determination to discover and solve science mysteries. His Motto shows this as it says “To seek the first principles of things”. Rutherford was a very determined man who only saw forward and never backwards. This is very common amongst Kiwis as we feel we have to show we as better than everyone else even with a small country.
Ernest Rutherford is a classic example of a New Zealander going into the great world and becoming the best in the business. He was the father of nuclear science, never looked back and most of all was determined. His faith in himself lead him places most people can only dream of.