The Charlotte News

Wednesday, October 20, 1937



Lord Rutherford

Sandwiched obscurely in the Associated Press report for yesterday is an item announcing that Lord Ernest Rutherford is dead. The good AP seems none to sure as to whom he was, for it says simply that he was a noted physicist, that he won the Nobel prize in chemistry back in 1908, and that his work in physics was concerned mainly with radioactivity.

But that is to leave out his greatest claim to fame. We mean that, with Niels Bohr of Copenhagen, he is the author of the theory of the atom which has had greatest currency in the last dozen or more years--what may be called the planetary theory of the atom. Under it, the final unit of matter or energy or what have you, is conceived as being made up of a nucleus, composed of a number of negative particles or charges of electricity called electrons, and a greater number of positive particles or charges called protons--with other electrons arranged at infinite distances about the nucleus as the planets are arranged about the sun, to a number sufficient to balance out the excess of protons in the nucleus. Each atom, in other words, stands as a sort of microcosm of the universe. It is a beautiful theory, and, though it has been much modified, that it is essentially sound is proved by its enormous productivity of results in use.

Lord Rutherford, like many another great explorer of the secrets of the cosmos, got a great deal less notice at his death than he deserved.

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