Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Radioactive disintegration, discovery of the atomic nucleus, artificially produced element transformation--Ernest Rutherford's early experiments
Modern atomic and nuclear physics took its start in the early part of the twentieth century, to a large extent based upon experimental investigations of radioactive phenomena. Foremost among the pioneers of the new kind of physics was Ernest Rutherford, who made fundamental contributions to the structure of matter for more than three decades and, in addition, founded important research schools in Manchester and Cambridge. This paper reviews the most important aspects of Rutherford’s scientific work in the period from about 1900 to 1920, and it also refers to some of his last experiments of the 1930s. The emphasis is on his theory of radioactive disintegration (1902), the discovery of the atomic nucleus (1911), and the first artificially produced element transformation (1919). Following the transmutation experiments, Rutherford developed elaborate models of the atomic nucleus, but these turned out to be unsuccessful. Other subjects could be included, but the three mentioned are undoubtedly those of the greatest importance, the nuclear atom perhaps the greatest and the one with the most far-reaching consequences.
"Rutherford, Radioactivity, and the Atomic Nucleus" by Helge Kragh