The Gold Foil Experiment

Ernest Rutherford

Biographical Information

  • Ernest Rutherford was born on August 30, 1871.
  • He was born in Nelson, New Zealand, and was the fourth child in a family of seven!
  • At the age of sixteen he entered Nelson Collegiate School.
  • He proceeded to attend the Canterbury College!
  • He graduated with a double first in Mathematics and Physical Science

The Experiment

  • Rutherford fired beams of alpha particles at a piece of gold foil.
  • He put a zinc sulfide screen behind the gold so that the particles that passed through could be displayed and seen clearly!
  • When he performed his experiment, he noticed that some of the alpha particles bounced off the gold foil and did not go through.

The Experiment

What This Means

  •  Due to the results of the experiment, Rutherford eventually managed to discover the nucleus of the atom.  This led to more modern theories of the atom.
  • People discovered the proton as well as the neutron.

How Does This Relate to Chemistry

  • The discovery of the nucleus led to changes of the scientific community. 
  • Atomic numbers were added into the periodic table. 
  • This changed the atomic theory of their time.

What else changed

  • Rutherford created a new model of the atom.
  • This model showed the nucleus of the atom as well as the protons and neutrons.
  • It showed that an atom is made up of mostly empty space.


Rutherford received various awards in his life for his discoveries. He was knighted in 1914; he was appointed to the Order of Merit in 1925; and also, he was created First Baron Rutherford of Nelson.

If not for his discoveries, science itself would be different today.

Rutherford changed the world.


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Public - 9/14/16, 1:20 PM