Issue Date: October 10, 2011
Ernest Rutherford, Nobel Chemist
In her Newscripts column, Sarah Everts worried that Ernest Rutherford “would roll over in his grave if I called him a chemist” (C&EN, Aug. 22, page 64). She needn’t have worried.
To a former student at McGill University in Montreal in 1908, Nobel Chemistry Laureate Rutherford wrote, “I must confess it was very unexpected and I am very startled at my metamorphosis into a chemist (Dardo, Mauro. “Nobel Laureates and Twentieth-Century Physics.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2004, page 69). Amused by the irony of the award, in his banquet address of Dec. 11, 1908, he quipped, “I have dealt with many different transformations with various periods of time, but the quickest I have met was my own transformation in one moment from a physicist to a chemist” (Jarlskog, Cecilia, www.slac.stanford.edu/econf/C0805263/ProcContrib/jarlskog_c.pdf).
The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics presents a similar “crossover effect.” Although it was awarded to two physicists, the prize-winning work involved the chemical species graphene, which received considerable coverage and publicity in popular chemical magazines (Chem. Educator2011,16, 195).
By George B. Kauffman
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