[ ruhth-er-ferd, ruhth- ]

  1. Daniel, 1749–1819, Scottish physician and chemist: discoverer of nitrogen.

  2. Ernest 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, 1871–1937, English physicist, born in New Zealand: Nobel Prize in chemistry 1908.

  1. John Sherman "Johnny", born 1938, U.S. racing-car driver.

  2. Joseph Franklin, 1869–1942, U.S. leader of Jehovah's Witnesses.

  3. Dame Margaret, 1892–1972, British actress.

  4. a city in NE New Jersey.

Words Nearby Rutherford Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use Rutherford in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for rutherford (1 of 2)


/ (ˈrʌðəfəd) /

  1. a unit of activity equal to the quantity of a radioactive nuclide required to produce one million disintegrations per second: Abbreviation: rd

Origin of rutherford

C20: named after Ernest Rutherford

British Dictionary definitions for Rutherford (2 of 2)


/ (ˈrʌðəfəd) /

  1. Ernest, 1st Baron. 1871–1937, British physicist, born in New Zealand, who discovered the atomic nucleus (1909). Nobel prize for chemistry 1908

  2. Dame Margaret . 1892–1972, British stage and screen actress. Her films include Passport to Pimlico (1949), Murder She Said (1962), and The VIPs (1963)

  1. Mark, original name William Hale White . 1831–1913, British novelist and writer, whose work deals with his religious uncertainties: best known for The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford (1881) and the novel The Revolution in Tanner's Lane (1887)

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Scientific definitions for Rutherford


[ rŭðər-fərd ]

  1. New Zealand-born British physicist who was a pioneer of subatomic physics. He discovered the atomic nucleus and named the proton. Rutherford demonstrated that radioactive elements give off three types of rays, which he named alpha, beta, and gamma, and invented the term half-life to measure the rate of radioactive decay. For this work he was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1908.

biography For Rutherford

Current theories of nuclear fission and fusion reactions are well accepted; these reactions now drive nuclear power plants and atomic bombs. But when the notion that some atoms could spontaneously disintegrate into other atoms was first advanced in 1902 by Ernest Rutherford, it found resistance among his colleagues, who believed that the chemical elements of which known matter was composed were indestructible and immutable. Undaunted, this New Zealand-born physicist then made a large number of discoveries in rapid succession, including the discovery of three kinds of radioactivity (alpha, beta, and gamma rays), and his brilliance and prodigious output soon won over his critics. By the time he garnered the Nobel Prize for chemistry six years later, he had written 80 more scientific papers. His explanation in 1903 of the radioactive decay of uranium-that pieces of uranium atoms were literally breaking off and being emitted, thereby transforming the uranium into a new element-was compelling and soon well accepted. Astonishingly, what are arguably his greatest discoveries came three years after he won the Prize. In 1911, he showed that atoms were composed of smaller constituents: electrons orbiting around a positively charged nucleus. While the rudiments of this idea had already been proposed by others, Rutherford's experimental research conclusively demonstrated its correctness. Rutherford later identified the proton, one of the particles found in the nucleus. The Rutherford atom, as it came to be known, is the model of atomic structure from which today's well-established quantum mechanical theories of atomic structure derive. Rutherford also succeeded in inducing the first artificial fusion, fusing deuterium atoms together into radioactive tritium and a light isotope of helium.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.