Ernest Rutherford

From Quotes
Life moves on, whether we act as cowards or heroes. Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy, and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such.
Henry Miller
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All science is either physics or stamp collecting.

Ernest Rutherford, 1st Baron Rutherford of Nelson, OM PC FRS (30 August 187119 October 1937), was a nuclear physicist from New Zealand. He was known as the "father" of nuclear physics, he pioneered the orbital theory of the atom, in his discovery of Rutherford scattering off the nucleus with the gold foil experiment.


The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the "social sciences" is: some do, some don't
  • Radioactivity is shown to be accompanied by chemical changes in which new types of matter are being continually produced. ... The conclusion is drawn that these chemical changes must be sub-atomic in character.
    • "The Cause and Nature of Radioactivity" in Philosophical Magazine (September 1902)
  • All science is either physics or stamp collecting.
    • As quoted in Rutherford at Manchester (1962) by J. B. Birks
    • Unsourced variant: That which is not measurable is not science. That which is not physics is stamp collecting.
      • "That which is not measurable is not science." is also attributed to Lord Kelvin
  • I came into the room which was half-dark and presently spotted Lord Kelvin in the audience, and realised that I was in for trouble at the last part of my speech dealing with the age of the Earth, where my views conflicted with his.
    To my relief, Kelvin fell fast asleep, but as I came to the important point, I saw the old bird sit up, open an eye and cock a baleful glance at me.
    Then a sudden inspiration came, and I said Lord Kelvin had limited the age of the Earth, provided no new source [of heat] was discovered. That prophetic utterance referred to what we are now considering tonight, radium! Behold! The old boy beamed upon me.
  • If you can't explain your physics to a barmaid it is probably not very good physics.
    • As quoted in Journal of Advertising Research (March-April 1998)
    • Variant: A theory that you can't explain to a bartender is probably no damn good.
    • As quoted in The Language of God (2006) by Francis Collins, p.60


  • All scientific men will be delighted to extend their warmest congratulations to Tesla and to express their appreciation of his great contributions to science.
  • I have always been very proud of the fact that I am a New Zealander.
  • I have broken the machine and touched the ghost of matter.
    • On splitting the atom
  • I'm a simple man myself.
  • If your result needs a statistician then you should design a better experiment.
    • Variant: If you need statistics, you did the wrong experiment.
    • Variant: If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.
  • It was as if you fired a 15-inch shell at a sheet of tissue paper and it came back to hit you.
    • On the scattering of alpha particles from gold foil.
  • That man is an Euclidian point: position without substance.
    • About a self-important person
  • That's the last potato I will ever dig.
    • Upon being admitted to Cambridge University - family anecdote
  • The energy produced by breaking down the atom is a very poor kind of thing. Anyone who expects a source of power from the transformations of these atoms is taking moonshine.
  • The more physics you have the less engineering you need.
  • The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the "social sciences" is: some do, some don't.
  • We don’t have the money, so we have to think. (or "We didn't have the money, so we had to think.")
    • On his experimental apparatus and innovation
  • You should never bet against anything in science at odds of more than about 10 or 12 to 1.

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