Ernest Rutherford and The Gold Foil Experiment

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Ernest Rutherford was a New Zealand born British physicist who is famously known for “splitting the atom.” His work on the gold foil experiment contributed greatly to the model of the atom and helped develop the standard model of the atom to what we now use today. Without his contributions we would still be using the Plum Pudding model, an out dated and incorrect model, and we would have less of an understanding of how atoms form the world around us. Before Rutherford’s Geiger-Marsden experiment the most popular model of the atom was the “plum pudding model” developed in 1904 by the person who also discovered the electron in 1897, J.J. Thompson. It was the most common model of the atom and stated that electrons (plum) floated around with free movement in a mass of positive charge (pudding), hence the name “plum pudding.” There were no other sub-atomic particles in the diagram, as they had not been discovered at the time of J.J. Thompson’s model of the atom, however it was know that the atom has neutral, so Thompson’s theory of the positive cloud substituted protons. There were several problems with Thompson’s model, including the lack of a nucleus with protons, which lead Thompson and other scientists to believe that the atom had electrons to balance out it’s positively charged nature and give the atom a neutral charge. Although this theory was widely accepted, some scientists theorised that Thompson’s model was incorrect, one of them being Hantaro Nagaoka who countered Thompson’s model with the argument that opposite charges cannot infiltrate one another, so the positive charge held by the atom must be focused in the nucleus and the electrons would revolve around the outside. Rutherford’s experiment would prove Nagaoka correct, ... ... middle of paper ... ...this discovery “the central charge” which was later renamed the nucleus, thus the current model of the atom. The current model of the atom shows a positively charged centre, the nucleus with negatively charged electrons moving around the outside of the nucleus at a large distance, hence the low density of the area and large mass. Together all this information proved the plum pudding model wrong, because the idea of electrons floating in a positive gas could not produce these results. Rutherford’s model of the atom Rutherford’s model is not the model we use now, as neutrons are still missing, however the discovery of the nucleus has helped other scientists find the neutron. Under Rutherford’s leadership in 1932 James Chadwick discovered the neutron. This discovery lead to the model we use today, and would not have been possible without the discovery of the proton.

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