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Famous Scientist Facts for Kids

Check out our fun facts for kids that feature interesting trivia, quotes and information related to a range of famous scientists.

Interesting facts about Ernest RutherfordErnest Rutherford Facts

Ernest Rutherford was a New Zealand chemist who helped pioneer nuclear physics. He won a Nobel Prize in chemistry, made numerous contributions to science and worked closely with a number of his students who went on to make their own significant discoveries. Read on for interesting facts, quotes and information about Ernest Rutherford.


  • Ernest Rutherford lived from the 30th of August 1871 to the 19th of October 1937.

  • Rutherford studied at Canterbury College, University of New Zealand before moving to England in 1895 for post graduate study at Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge.

  • Rutherford worked on radioactivity, coining the terms ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’ to describe the two different types of radiation emitted by uranium and thorium. He also observed that radioactive material took the same amount of time for half of it to decay, known as its “half life”.

  • In 1907, Rutherford, Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden carried out the Geiger-Marsden experiment, an attempt to examine the structure of the atom. The surprising results of this experiment demonstrated the existence of the atomic nucleus and became an integral part of the Rutherford model of the atom.

  • The Rutherford model of the atom was simplified in a well known symbol showing electrons circling around the nucleus like planets orbiting the sun. This symbol became popular and has been used by various organizations around the world as a symbol for atoms and atomic energy in general.

  • In 1908, Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on the transmutation of elements and the chemistry of radioactive material.

  • The element 'rutherfordium' (atomic number 104) was named in Rutherford’s honor. It is a synthetic, radioactive element made in particle accelerators.

  • Rutherford was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey, the same location as Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton.

  • Famous Ernest Rutherford quotes include: “If you can't explain your physics to a barmaid it is probably not very good physics.”

  • “All science is either physics or stamp collecting.”

  • “Radioactivity is shown to be accompanied by chemical changes in which new types of matter are being continually produced. .... The conclusion is drawn that these chemical changes must be sub-atomic in character.”

    Ernest Rutherford facts






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