AIP’s Center for History of Physics Opens New Web Exhibit on Ernest Rutherford, Discoverer of the Atomic Nucleus

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College Park, Md., Dec. 3, 2012 – The American Institute of Physics’ (AIP) Center for History of Physics has opened a new online exhibit on early 20th century physicist Ernest Rutherford, who helped discover the structure of the atom. Titled “Rutherford’s Nuclear World,” the new web exhibit burrows beneath the simple story of Rutherford’s famed discoveries and recreates the mystery and excitement of his world-changing work. The exhibit features audio clips and photographs and expands Rutherford’s story to include the scientist’s youth and education, his collaboration with other scientists, and his lasting influence.

 “The goal of this exhibit is to bring to life how Rutherford and his students made their discoveries, to peer over their shoulders as the work was being done,” said Greg Good, director of the Center for History of Physics.

“The new exhibit, ‘Rutherford’s Nuclear World’, joins the dozen existing online exhibits of the Center for History of Physics. These range from exhibits on Einstein and Marie Curie, to the invention of the laser and the discovery of global warming,” noted Catherine O’Riordan, vice president of AIP’s Physics Resources Center. 

The Rutherford exhibit is also set to grow as new interactive features are added.

Ernest Rutherford was born in 1871 in New Zealand.  He made his career in England and is famous for his discovery of the atomic nucleus in 1911 and for the first artificial disintegration of the atom in 1919.

Rutherford’s biographer and friend A.S. Eve wrote, “Rutherford was the Newton of the atom, dealing with the disintegration and the building of atoms. He was the king of the microcosm, leading an army to ever fresh conquests.”
Rutherford’s discoveries provide an essential basis for our understanding of matter and energy. His work on radioactivity and the structure of the atom eventually enabled the development of new medical diagnostics and treatments and brought us to the nuclear age. Without his discoveries, we could not accurately date archeological sites or fossils or trace nutrient flow through ecosystems.

The Center for History of Physics, established in 1965, strives to preserve and communicate the history of physics and allied fields.

About the Center
AIP's Center for History of Physics and Niels Bohr Library & Archives work together  with partners around the world for a better understanding of the human side of physics and allied sciences such as astronomy and geophysics. Through documentation programs, archival collections, and educational initiatives, they help ensure that the heritage of modern physics is safeguarded and its story accurately told. See

About AIP
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is an organization of 10 physical science societies, representing more than 135,000 scientists, engineers, and educators. As one of the world's largest publishers of scientific information in physics, AIP employs innovative publishing technologies and offers publishing services for its Member Societies. AIP's suite of publications includes 15 journals, three of which are published in partnership with other organizations; magazines, including its flagship publication Physics Today; and the AIP Conference Proceedings series. Through its Physics Resources Center, AIP also delivers valuable services and expertise in education and student programs, science communications, government relations, career services for science and engineering professionals, statistical research, industrial outreach, and the history of physics and other sciences.

Charles E. Blue
American Institute of Physics
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