|Even though Ernest Rutherford
was by trade a physicist, a lot of his research served to shed light
on once unknown aspects of radioactivity and nuclear chemistry. Of
his many contributions to these fields is his classification and description
of alpha particles. As will be discussed in subsequent pages, Rutherford
didn't necessarily discover alpha particles as much as he recognized
their existence. However, a base understanding of the history of radiation
and radioactivity must be obtained before Rutherford's contributions
are discussed. I shall therefore start from the beginning.
|The first steps into deciphering
radiation were taken by Wilhelm Röntgen in 1895 when he placed
his hand in front of a radioactive source to discover that a shadowed
outline of the bones of his hand was being projected onto the screen
behind him. Röntgen was so thrilled by this discovery that he
isolated himself from everyone he knew (with the exception of brief
comments to his wife) so that he could experiment with this unknown
form of radiation. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Röntgen was
directly exposing himself to high amounts of hazardous radiation;
which couldn't had been good for his health. But despite such consequences,
Röntgen was able to publish his research soon after the discovery
and called the radiation "X-rays."
For more information on Wilhelm Röntgen's discovery
and experimentation with X-rays, click here.
*Note- The image below portrays an
early experimental tube that is similar to those that Roentgen and
others used to investigate the nature of light.