Rutherford, Simple GeniusBook - 1983
This is the first full-length biography of Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), the mostimportant experimental physicist of his time, and probably the most ingenious since Faraday. It wasRutherford who discovered the atomic nucleus and who first "split" an atom.Based in large part onpreviously inaccessible letters and other papers, the book traces Rutherford's life from hisupbringing in the pioneering society of New Zealand to his burial in Westminster Abbey as LordRutherford of Nelson. It recounts his student years at Cambridge, working with J.J. Thomson on thenewly discovered X-rays; the years of McGill University when (with Soddy) he established the laws ofradioactive decay and demonstrated the transmutation of elements, work that resulted in a Nobelprize; his highly productive years at Manchester when he discovered the nucleus and developed incollaboration with Niels Bohr, the standard model of atomic structure; and finally, his return toCambridge to direct the Cavendish Laboratory.Wilson unearths new material on Rutherford'sdevelopment of SONAR-like antisubmarine devices during World War I, an official secret for manyyears after his death. He also presents new information on Rutherford's relationship to Russianphysicist Peter Kapitza, his "favourite son," who was denied permission to return to Cambridge aftera visit to his homeland in 1934. The "Kapitza affair" unleashed a storm of protest in internationalscientific and political circles.The book also offers numerous personal glimpses of Rutherford - thehundreds of unreported experimental dead ends that lay behind his legendary scientific intuition,and the sensitive and sympathetic side of the older Rutherford who presented a gruff, crustyexterior to his colleagues.David Wilson was for twenty-five years a Science Correspondent for theBBC TV News and the author of a number of popular books on science.