Ernest Rutherford (1871 – 1937)

Father of Nuclear Physics

Rutherford was the scientist whose work gave birth to the field of atomic physics. Albert Einstein called him “a second Newton.” During the nine years he spent teaching and researching at McGill, Rutherford collaborated with Frederick Soddy of the Chemistry Department on experiments that would begin to reveal the structure of the atom. His conclusion that atoms could be transformed and that each atom potentially carried a tremendous amount of energy earned him the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1908. After leaving McGill, he would make other huge breakthroughs, including splitting the atom in 1913. As “the father of nuclear physics” and whose key work started in the basement of the Macdonald Physics Building, he deserves consideration as the Greatest McGillian.