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The Right Hon. Lord Rutherford of Nelson, O.M., F.R.S

Nature volume 140, pages 746748 (30 October 1937) | Download Citation



ERNEST RUTHERFORD was born in New Zealand on August 30, 1871, and he was well educated at schools in Brightwater and Nelson, where his headmaster was the famous cricketer W. J. Ford, formerly a classical master at Marl-borough. Rutherford went with a scholarship to Canterbury College, Christchurch, where he quickly made his mark by carrying out an interesting and important research with a magnetic detector of wireless waves. There is a striking similarity between Rutherford's work and that of the famous American physicist, Henry. Both used an aerial, a coil of many turns round a bundle of fine sewing needles and a small magnet which was deflected by the changed magnetism of the needles due to the current in the aerial produced by the wireless waves. Henry, however, detected lightning flashes up to ten miles' distance ; Rutherford the sparks from an induction coil, two miles away. I once asked Rutherford if he had then already heard of Henry's work, and he replied, "No"! The two minds converged independently. The genius of Marconi afterwards developed an important magnetic detector which, before the age of valves, was in common use for wireless detection in ships.

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