Ernest Rutherford, the son of a farmer, was born in Brightwater, New Zealand in 1871. He won a scholarship to Canterbury College, Christchurch, where he carried out research into magnetic viscosity.
In 1907 Rutherford became professor at Manchester University. The following year he won the Nobel Prize for chemistry. He also worked with Hans Geiger together they studied the mathematical relationship between the amount of alpha scattering and atomic weight. Between 1912 and 1916 Rutherford and Niels Bohr developed a model of atomic structure and helped to establish the validity of quantum theory.
During the First World War Rutherford did research on submarine detection for the Admiralty. In 1919 he discovered that alpha-ray bombardments induced atomic transformation in atmospheric nitrogen, liberating hydrogen nuclei. His research enabled him to predict the existence of the neutron that was eventually discovered by James Chadwick.
Ernest Rutherford, who was president of the Royal Society from 1925 to 1930, died in 1937.