October 19, 1937, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England
Claim to Fame:
Lord Rutherford pioneered the orbital theory of the atom with his famous gold foil experiment, through which he discovered Rutherford scattering off the nucleus. He is sometimes called the Father of Nuclear Physics.
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1908)
Element 104, rutherfordium, is named in his honor
Rutherford discovered and named alpha and beta decay and coined the terms alpha, beta, and gamma rays. He demonstrated radioactivity was the spontaneous disintegration of atoms and was the first person to artificially disintegrate an element. He identifed alpha particles as helium nuclei. Rutherford's gold foil experiment helped describe the nuclear structure of the atom. The deflection of the alpha particles implied the existence of a dense, positively charged central region containing most of the atomic mass. In 1920, he hypothesized the existence of the neutron.