Beyond scientific research: tracing the contributions Ernest Rutherford made to the next generation of scientists



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Texas A&M University


Before his death in 1937, Ernest Rutherford discovered the rate of radioactive decay of atoms. In 1911 he proposed the nuclear structure of the atom, and in 1919 he successfully split the nucleus of an atom. Rutherford also achieved success when advising his students to follow his research method in nuclear physics. As a faculty advisor to research students, Rutherford advised courses, research topics, and experimental research. To determine whether Rutherford made an impact on his students, this study focused on the relationship between Rutherford and 24 researchers and students at McGill University, the University of Manchester, and Cambridge University. Rutherford had a significant impact through his advising efforts at each institution and contributed to the success of his students. This study may not include a complete list of students at each institution because of a lack of records at each institution. Instead, this study focused on the students included in the Rutherford biographies. The study included a content analysis on Rutherford biographies and memoirs from students under Rutherford??s direct influence at McGill University, the University of Manchester, and Cambridge University. Historical information from J.L. Heilbron, David Wilson, and J.G. Crowther supplied the timeline at each institution where Rutherford conducted research. The results show an overwhelming contribution by Rutherford??s leadership in the direction of his students. Rutherford made a significant impact in the research direction of all his students examined in this study, including eight research students under Rutherford that were later honored with a Nobel Prize.