Manchester at the beginning of the 20th century was already a scientific and industrial powerhouse. It was the epicentre of the industrial revolution and it had also been home to eminent scientists including John Dalton and James Joule.
But in 1911 the city’s legacy was about to be strengthened again thanks to the physicist Ernest Rutherford, who had recently taken up the chair of physics at the University of Manchester. It was in this year that Rutherford published his paper about the structure of the atom that was to revolutionize our understanding of matter.
To mark the 100th anniversary of this event, Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry is hosting a special exhibition about Rutherford’s discovery and his legacy in the city of Manchester. In this video, Physics World reporter James Dacey visits the museum to meet the exhibition’s curator, Cat Rushmore, who describes what is on display. Among the exhibits is a collection of artefacts retrieved from Rutherford’s lab, including his desk and chair and a letter to Rutherford from Niels Bohr describing how much he admired the Manchester laboratory.
Rushmore also shares her thoughts on what Rutherford may have been like as a scientist and a colleague. “I think he was a strong personality, and I think without that strong personality you couldn’t have directed all those experiments and created such a stamp on the field as he did,” she says.
The special exhibition is scheduled to run until the end of November, but after that time visitors can still visit the museum’s permanent Rutherford display.