Skip to main content

Correspondence of Ernest Rutherford

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.7653/1

Scope and Contents

From the Fonds:

Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), Baron Rutherford of Nelson, was born in Nelson, New Zealand. In 1895 he came to England to be a research student under J.J. Thomson at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge. His first professorial appointment was at McGill University in Montreal, 1898-1907, where he and Frederick Soddy advanced the transformation theory, the still-accepted interpretation of the phenomenon of radioactivity. While in Canada Rutherford also made contact with two other outstanding chemists, Bertram Boltwood of Yale University, with whom he collaborated by mail, and Otto Hahn, who came to spend a year under his guidance. Rutherford returned to England to work at the University of Manchester, 1907-1919, where he succeeded Arthur Schuster as director of the physical laboratory. At the university Hans Geiger, a staff member, and Ernest Marsden, a student, performed the alpha particle scattering experiments that led Rutherford to formulate the concept of the nuclear atom in 1911. Other notable research students at Manchester at this time included Kasmir Fajans, George de Hevesy, James Chadwick, and Niels Bohr. Shortly before leaving Manchester in 1919 for Cambridge, where he succeeded his own teacher, J.J. Thomson, Rutherford announced a major discovery, the artificial transformation of one element into another. This work was continued in the Cavendish Laboratory, primarily with Chadwick's aid. From 1925 to 1930 Rutherford was President of the Royal Society.


Conditions Governing Access

From the Fonds:

The MS Add.7653 Ernest Rutherford papers are owned by the University of Cambridge and are open for consultation under the normal regulations of the University Library's manuscripts collections; see The only limitations to use are in respect of the low-level radioactivity of a small number of items in the collection. Further advice is available from the Manuscripts Reading Room staff.

Language of Materials