A new intellectual biography of Ernest Rutherford, the twentieth century’s greatest experimental physicist.
Ernest Rutherford, who grew up in colonial New Zealand and came to Cambridge on a scholarship, made numerous revolutionary discoveries, among them the orbital structure of the atom and the concept of the “half-life” of radioactive materials, which led to a massive re-evaluation of the age of the earth―previously judged just 100 million years old. Above all, perhaps, Rutherford and the young men working under him were the first to split the atom, unlocking tremendous forces―forces, as Rutherford himself predicted, that would bring us the atomic bomb.
Rutherford, awarded a Nobel Prize and made Baron Rutherford by the queen of England, was also a great ambassador of science, coming to the aid of colleagues caught in the Nazi and Soviet regimes. Under Rutherford’s rigorous and boisterous direction, a whole new generation of remarkable physicists emerged. In Richard Reeves’s hands, Rutherford leaps off the page, a ruddy, genial man and a towering figure in scientific history.
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“While short, this biography does an outstanding job of capturing the excitement and almost breathless pace of physics research in the twentieth century’s first four decades.”