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-Nobel Prize
-Order of Merit
-Coat of Arms




Rutherford's Awards

Nobel Prize

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Ernest Rutherford was awarded the 1908 Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for his investigations into the disintegration of the elements, and the chemistry of radioactive substances.'' As he delighted in telling friends, the fastest transformation he knew of was his transformation from a physicist to a chemist.

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Ernest Rutherford was knighted in the New Year's Honours List for 1914. This was in time for a visit to Australasia where the British Association for the Advancement of Science was to hold its annual conference that year. As early as 1911 a letter writer to the editor of a small New Zealand newspaper in Rutherford's home town had complained that almost all on that year's honours list received it through influence and that there should be others who are worthy of being honoured. I have in mind one who by his brain-power, grit, and perseverance has forced his way to the top rung of the ladder, until he now ranks amongst the highest, if not the highest, in the scientific world.

When 12-year-old Eileen first saw her father in his court dress she stated that he looked like a rather superior footman.

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Order of Merit

Ern became a Member of the Order of Merit (Civil Badge) in the New Year's Honour's List for 1925. At that time the order was restricted to 24 living persons. For men the insignia is worn on a riband around the neck. The civil badge has a laurel wreath, the military badge has crossed swords. This prestigious order had been initiated by King Edward VII, an admirer of Prussia's Pour le merit. The Order of Merit was the unfettered and personal gift of the Sovereign to such persons, being subjects of Our Crown, as may have rendered meritorious service in Our Army and Our Navy or towards the advancement of Art, Literature and Science.

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Ernest Rutherford was raised to the peerage in the New Year's Honours list of 1931, a week after his daughter Eileen had died. At the time May Rutherford was in New Zealand visiting her mother. She thought it would be appropriate if he chose as his territorial designation a New Zealand name. Christchurch and Nelson were too English sounding so she suggested Lord Rutherford of Havelock, where he had got his educational start. Ern had already selected Lord Rutherford of Nelson, in honour of my birthplace and home of my grandfather. Please note that the correct form of address is Ernest Lord Rutherford, not Lord Ernest Rutherford as is often incorrectly used in New Zealand.

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Coat of Arms

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In choosing his coat of arms Ern, and the Herald of Arms, worked in Rutherford elements (the legless swifts on the shield), New Zealand elements (the Kiwi and the Maori warrior), past honours (the Order of Merit), knowledge (the left hand supporter is Hermes Trismegistus, the patron saint of knowledge and alchemists) and his own researches (the shield is quartered by the curves of radioactive growth and decay).

A translation of the latin motto is To seek the first principles of things, adapted from Lucretius' On the Nature of The Universe.

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