Scientific Book Club
288 pages. Hardback - war-time paper.
9 B/W plates.
Out of Print
My Comments on This Book
Ivor Evans' was a
journalist who specialised in scientific feature articles. His background was in
economics, languages and managing drama groups, although he had helped organise scientific
societies at school. At the outbreak of the Second World War he entered industry on the
technical side of munitions manufacturing. He later wrote various reports for the National
Coal Board on the extraction of coal.
Lady Rutherford was
cross that Evans' original book came out before the official biography by Arthur Eve. One
strength Evans had as a journalist was access to newspapers. Also he was one of the first,
if not the first, to think of writing a quick biography after Rutherford's death, and he
had access to journalists who had interviewed Rutherford at different times. What a gem is
the prophetic story Tom Clarke told Evans of Rutherford's refusal to couch his newsworthy
stories in simple words for the unscientific reporter and for the general public. "I
think he was wrong, as I think many leaders of science are still wrong in holding aloof
from the man in the street and not giving simple understanding explanations of what they
are doing. After all, it is on the interest of the lay public that the finance of the
The nine plates of illustrations are a curious choice. One is a frontisepiece portrait
of Ern and one shows Ern with Cockcroft and Walton but the others show other people's
apparatus, (eg Cloud Chamber, mass spectrometer). The photo of Canterbury College is of
buildings that mostly didn't exist when Ern arrived at Canterbury College. Another
surprising thing is that Evans didn't appear to interview some of the people who knew
Rutherford best, for example JJ Thomson. The New Zealand side is entirely unreliable. (eg
p21 when describing where Rutherford carried out his research at Canterbury College.
"This den was an underground room beneath the physics laboratory" No, it was
under the mathematics lecture room. "It still exists, though the building which formerly stood above it
has passed away," No, the main Canterbury College buildings still stand above it.
"Hertz's experiments aroused the enthusiasm of Rutherford" No, it was Tesla's
So when reading
this book enjoy the first hand reminiscences of Rutherford passed on to Evans but
otherwise it has been superceeded in accuracy by subsequent biographies.
p13 The Phoebe Dunbar was built some 9 years after the Rutherford's arrived in New
Zealand. They arrived on the new ship the Phoebe, which later sunk in India and the
Phoebe Dunbar was built as a replacement.
p14 Matucka = Motueka.
p14 James was 3 when he left England and 4 when he arrived in New Zealand.
p14 Martha wasn't the first woman schoolteacher in New Zealand. For example, she had taken
over from her mother. p11 Brightwater wasn't in the depths of the New Zealand forests. It
was on a plain.
These comments, with those above, show that early detail is often flawed. However the
later chapters on Rutherford's research and influence are good.
||Pioneer Days in
||Student Days at
||Canada and the
First Great Discovery
||First Years at
||The Second Great
Moseley and Bohr
||The Third Great
Years at the Cavendish
Life History of the Alpha Particle
||President of the
||Building for the
||The Scientist is
||The Fulfilment of
||High Voltages and
Science and Industry
||Over the Hedge
||The Sudden End