Nuclear Constitution of Atoms1


THE idea of the nuclear constitution of atoms was developed from an examination of the scattering of swift α-particles in passing through matter, and the advance afterwards made was due to the proof by Moseley of the close connection between the atomic number of an element and the nuclear charge. The accurate determination of the nuclear charge is of prime importance. Recent unpublished experiments by Mr. Chadwick in the Cavendish Laboratory indicate that the nuclear charge on an atom in fundamental units is equal to the atomic number within an accuracy of about 1 per cent. It follows that there is a region surrounding the nucleus where the law of the inverse square holds accurately. The problem of the constitution of the atom divides itself naturally into two parts: one the arrangement of the external electrons on which the ordinary chemical and physical properties of the atom depend, and the other the constitution of the nucleus on which depend the mass of the element, the possibility of isotopes, and radio-activity. The nucleus is composed of positively charged units and negative electrons in very close combination, and estimates of its dimensions are possible from a study of the collision of α-particles with light atoms. Close to the nucleus there is a rapid change in the magnitude and direction of the forces, probably in part connected with the deformation of the nucleus structure under the intense forces which arise in a close collision.


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

RUTHERFORD, E. Nuclear Constitution of Atoms1. Nature 105, 500–501 (1920).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.