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.
The logic of the atom.
Ernest Rutherford is widely considered the father of nuclear physics. His defining accomplishment came in 1917 when he split the atom in a nuclear reaction. In doing so, he discovered and named the proton, and blasted the world into the atomic age. This breakthrough didn’t happen in a vacuum. Rutherford carried out much of his early work in nuclear physics at Montreal’s McGill University from 1898 to 1905. While there, he conceived the idea of radioactive half-life, proved that radioactivity involved the nuclear transformation of one chemical element to another, identified alpha and beta radiation, and outlined differences between the two. These achievements earned him the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1908. More importantly, they set the stage for even more earth-shattering atomic discoveries to come.