He "Touched The Ghost of Matter"

This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.

Ernest Rutherford

When Ernest Rutherford became the first person to split ever split the atom, he said that he had “broken the machine and touched the ghost of matter.” But splitting the atom was only one of the historic firsts brought about by his work in chemistry and physics. Rutherford, who was born into a farming family in New Zealand and attended Cambridge University on a scholarship, came to work as a professor at McGill University in 1898. It was there that he opened up the field of atomic physics by discovering that atoms can be transformed, and that radioactivity is caused by the disintegration of atoms. Albert Einstein once called Rutherford a “second Newton” for his world-changing discoveries. He was awarded the Nobel Price for Chemistry in 1908.

Profile picture for user McGill University
McGill University

McGill University is one of Canada's best-known institutions of higher learning and one of the leading universities in the world. With students coming to McGill from over 150 countries, our student body is the most internationally diverse of any research-intensive university in the country.