Influential Atomic and Nuclear Physicists of the 20th Century
*Denotes Nobel Laureate

Pre 1900








Ernest Rutherford* (1871-1937)
8/30/1871, Born, Nelson, New Zealand to frontier
farming family of English immigrants.
1877-89, Attended Government schools. Showed
aptitude for science.
1889-91, Nelson College, on scholarship
1891-93, U. New Zealand (M.A.), scholarship
1893-95, “ “ “ (B.Sc.), research on
magnetism of electrical waves earned scholarship to Cambridge.
1895-98, Trinity College, Cambridge, Cavendish
Labs, (Thomson)-discovered A & B particles.
1898-1907, McGill U., Montreal, Professor of Physics -research on radioactive elements. Established theory of spontaneous disintegration of radioactive elements. Assistants, F. Soddy*, O. Hahn*
1907-1918, U. Manchester, Professor of Physics
Assts. H. Geiger, N. Bohr*
1908, Nobel Prize-Chemistry- “Transmutation of Radioactive Elements”-for work at McGill

3/7/11, Discovery of the atomic nucleus

1914, Knighted
1914-18, Consultant to the British Admiralty
1915, -Discovery of the Proton

1919-1937, Cambridge U. –Director of Cavendish Labs. Assistants Included, Chadwick*, Blackett*, Cockcroft*, Walton*.

1931, Created Baron Rutherford of Nelson

10/19/1937-Died, Cambridge (66)

Known as the father of nuclear and atomic physics, Rutherford was an astounding experimentalist who could conceive and complete some of the most fundamental experiments with the simplest of equipment, which provided the basic building blocks to 20th Century atomic and nuclear physics. As a gifted educator he trained many of the physicists who developed quantum theory and its applications
Albert Einstein* (1879-1955)
1879, Born Ulm, Germany (now Poland)
1880, Family moved to Munich. Attended public grade and high schools.

1896, Renounced German citizenship
1896, Attended school in Arrau, CH to prepare for
entrance exams to ETH in Switzerland.
1896-1900, Graduated ETH, Zurich, qualified as teacher in science and math.
1900-02, Could not find University positions
1900-02, Temporary teaching positions in high schools.
1901, Obtained Swiss citizenship

1902-09, Appointed technical expert third class, Patent Office, Berne
3/1905, Paper, Photoelectric Effect
4/1905, Ph.D., ETH, “Molecular Dimensions”
5/1905, Theory of Special Relativity

1908, U. Berne, Privatdozent
1909, U. Zurich, Associate Professor

1911, U. Prague, Full Professor
1912, ETH, Zurich, Professor
1914-1932, U. Berlin, Professor
1915, Theory of General Relativity

1921, Nobel Prize, “Photoelectric Effect”

1924, Paper, Bose-Einstein Condensation, last
significant contribution.

1932-55, Institute for Advanced Studies, Professor
(Does not return to Germany as expected because of Nazi takeover of Germany in 1933)

1939, Letter to Pres. Roosevelt re. German capability to develop Atom Bomb.  The letter was drafted by Eugene Wigner and Leo Szilard and delivered to Roosevelt by Dr. Alenander Sachs, a Lehman Bros. partner and prominent Democrat.

4/18/1955, Died, Princeton, NJ
Einstein is the most renowned physicist of the 20th century and arguably one of the two most important physicists in history. At the age of 26, in 1905 while working at the Swiss patent office he produced two papers that were some of the most important and creative advances in the field, one dealing with quantum theory and the other developing special relativity. Ten years later, he added to this incredible output of creative thought the theory of general relativity. No physicist has ever made such a number of groundbreaking advances in his lifetime. Einstein worked alone and built no school around him. After 1924 he made no other significant contributions, and spent much of his time until death attempting to construct a unified theory that combined general relativity and quantum theory. Although he was conversant with quantum theory and indeed made contributions to its advancement, because of the statistical nature of the theory, he felt it was just an approximation and not the final theory that was yet to be found.

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