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Monday, August 6, 2018

Ernest Rutherford and nuclear physics


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Library of Congress


Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) was British physicist best known for helping establish the nuclear structure of an atom. Physicist Freeman Dyson said,


"Rutherford's discovery was the beginning of the science that came to be called nuclear physics... The twenty years between 1909 and 1929 were the era of tabletop nuclear physics... Small and simple experiments were sufficient to establish the basic laws of nuclear physics." (The Scientist As Rebel, 2006)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Rutherford.


Nuclear physics


"We're like children who always want to take apart watches to see how they work." (Quoted in Seeing the Unseen by Freeman Dyson)


"When we have found how the nucleus of atoms is built up we shall have found the greatest secret of all - except life. We shall have found the basis of everything - of the earth we walk on, of the air we breathe, of the sunshine, of our physical body itself, of everything in the world, however great or however small - except life." (Quoted in The Wit and Wisdom of the 20th Century by Frank Pepper)




"I must confess it was it was very unexpected and I am very startled at my metamorphosis into a chemist." (Quoted in Nobel Laureates and 20th Century Physics by Mauro Dardo)


Philosophy of language


"An alleged scientific discovery has no merit unless it can be explained to a barmaid." (Quoted in Einstein: The Man and His Achievement by G.J. Whitrow)


"Don't let me catch anyone talking about the universe in my department." (Quoted in J. D. Bernal and the Origin of Life by John Kendrew)