Ernest Rutherford Medal and Prize

The Council of The Physical Society instituted the Rutherford Memorial Lecture in 1939, in memory of Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson. Lord Rutherford was the father of nuclear physics, discovering the concept of radioactive half-life, proved that radioactivity involved the transmutation of one chemical element to another. In 1908 he received the Nobel Prize.

Owing to the outbreak of war, the first Rutherford Memorial lecture was not given until 1942. In 1965 the Council decided that, in view of the changed conditions since the lecture was established, this should become a medal and prize. The first award was made in 1966.

The physicist behind the medal
Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson was a New-Zealand-born British physicist who is generally considered to be the father of nuclear physics. He came up with the concept of radioactive half-life, showed that radioactivity involves chemical elements transmuting into other elements, and was the first to distinguish between alpha and beta radiation.

Under his direction, over 1908–11, Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden carried out a series of experiments at the University of Manchester in which alpha particles were fired at metal foils; the unexpected scattering (now known as Rutherford scattering) led Rutherford to develop a model of the atom now named after him, in which the mass is concentrated in a very small nucleus.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908 and was a winner of the Royal Society’s Rumford Medal and Copley Medal, the Royal Society of Arts’s Albert Medal, and the IET’s Faraday Medal.

The award shall be made for distinguished contributions to nuclear physics or nuclear technology. The medal will be silver and will be accompanied by a prize of £1,000 and a certificate.

Ernest Rutherford medal recipients


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