Celebrating Ernest Rutherford’s 150th Birthday

Throughout August 2021, we are celebrating the 150th birthday of Lord Ernest Rutherford – father of nuclear physics and the University of Canterbury's most distinguished graduate.


Ernest Rutherford was the creator of modern atomic and nuclear physics – one of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century. He started at University of Canterbury (then called Canterbury College) in 1890. After three degrees and two years research at the forefront of the electrical technology of the day, he won an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship, which he took up at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge.

He made discoveries about radioactivity, transmutation of elements in nuclear interactions, and most notably the discovery that all atoms consist of a dense, charged nucleus surrounded by tiny electrons in mostly empty space. Rutherford was awarded the 1908 Nobel Prize in chemistry and later made a baron (Ernest, Lord Rutherford of Nelson) for his contributions to science.