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Physicist Ernest Rutherford was the central figure in the study of radioactivity who led the exploration of nuclear physics.
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He was also elected president of the Institute of Physics that same year.
On October 19, 1937, Baron Rutherford died in Cambridge, England at age 66 from the complications of a strangulated hernia. The scientist, who had been nicknamed “Crocodile” by his colleagues for always looking ahead, was buried at Westminster Abbey.
Years before he died, during World War I,
Rutherford said he hoped scientists would not learn how to extract atomic energy until “man was living at peace with his neighbors.” The discovery of nuclear fission was, in fact, made just two years after his death, and eventually resulted in what Rutherford had feared—the use of nuclear power to build wartime weapons.
Many of Rutherford’s discoveries also became the basis of the European Organization for Nuclear Research’s construction of the Large Hadron Collider. The largest and highest-energy particle accelerator in the world and decades in the making, the Large Hadron Collider started smashing atomic particles in May 2010. It has since been used to answer fundamental questions about physics, by scientists who share in Rutherford’s tendency toward forward-thinking and his relentless quest for proof through scientific exploration.
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