Rutherford - Simple
The MIT Press 1983
14 black/white photos on 8 plates.
Out of Print
My Comments on This Book
David Wilson was a (the?) pioneer science correspondent for the British Broadcasting
Corporation (BBC) TV and had written four previous books which popularised science.
he was the first person to make use of the BBC archives. He also discovered that the widow
of Albert Wood lived not far from him, so he had access to a unique archive of
Rutherford's work on the acoustical methods of detecting submarines during the First World
This is a very
comprehensive coverage of Rutherford's work and life after he left New Zealand, the most
detailed of any of Rutherford's biographies. For that I highly commend this book.
However I cannot recommend it for events prior to Ern's departure. When I reviewed the book
(generally good) I had to condemn this era as an example of the folly of using secondary sources.
As I am acknowledged as having helped on the New Zealand side I should explain. David first
contacted me about 1978 for information. I sent him various information and emphasised
several serious points, in particular that Rutherford's first research was actually
published in his second research paper. I even stayed with David one night in England to
emphasis this point. So it was galling to read (p604) that he has to ``thank Dr Campbell,
of Canterbury College (sic), for the first glimmering of the idea that the time order of
the work should be reversed.'' I had told him emphatically that this was so.
For someone who
never set foot in New Zealand to comment (p61) ``It is impossible to determine with any
precision what Rutherford himself was doing in New Zealand meanwhile.'' and (p61) ``The
difficulty of tracing his movements continues throughout that last New Zealand winter.''
is just plain deceitful and highly misleading. Any student of those times knows that
newspapers published lists of the passengers on every ship entering port, of train
passengers and of newcomers to city hotels. And there is a wealth of other archival
material available to assist such a search.
I made an offer to
cast my eye over the New Zealand section and David said he would take this up but he never
did. Having since had deadlines of my own I now have more sympathy for his omission which
resulted in two flawed chapters.
David died in 2000.
There was an excellent obituary of him in The Guardian 19th Sept 2000.
Of the New Zealand section p17 has 14 errors or points which require further discussion.
Admittedly that is the worst page but if you are interested in Rutherford's life before he
left New Zealand then it is best to refer to my own books, Rutherford's Ancestors
and Rutherford Scientist Supreme.
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|Introduction and Acknowledgements
||New Zealand Education
||The Wide, Wide World
||Science in Cambridge
||Life in North America
||Last Years in Canada
||Starting in Manchester
||The Atom in Action
||Rutherford at War
||The Atom is Smashed
||Cambridge and the Cavendish
||Politics and Power
|Notes and Sources
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|Technology and Culture
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