Quotes By and About Rutherford
Quotes by, and about, Rutherford abound.
But they alter with time and country, and are often used out of context in a way never initially intended.
If only in the 1970s to 90s, when I was reading original material on Rutherford and talking to people who
knew him, I had had in mind this page then I would have noted down in one place the earliest versions of
all Rutherford quotations, plus their source(s). Instead they are scattered over 10 notebooks and 2 filing
cabinets of material.
To date I have some 20 pages of quotes and sources drafted and these will be uploaded as I get time.
If anyone can supply other quotes or earlier references to those below, please contact me.
john.campbell (at] canterbury.ac.nz.
“It is given to but few men to achieve immortality, still less to achieve Olympian rank, during their
own lifetime. Lord Rutherford achieved both. In a generation that witnessed one of the greatest
revolutions in the entire history of science he was universally acknowledged as the leading explorer
of the vast infinitely complex universe within the atom, a universe that he was first to penetrate.”
New York Times, 20th Oct 1937.
Rutherford died at 9.35pm (UK time) the night before. The news of Rutherford’s death was on the front
page. “LORD RUTHERFORD, PHYSICIST, IS DEAD”.
The obituary, which covered 3 columns of p18, was written by William L. Laurence, the New York Times’
science writer who co-founded the National Association of Science Writers in 1934 and was the
co-winner of the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Reporting.
"I learned a great deal from Rutherford – not physics but how to do physics."
Peter Kapitza to Niels Bohr. 19th Oct 1937.
Kapitza, who had been refused an exit visa from to Russia since 1934, wrote to Bohr
following Rutherford’s death on 19th Oct 1937, “… All these years I lived with the hope that I
shall see him again and now this hope is gone. … I loved Rutherford … I learned a great deal
from Rutherford - not physics but how to do physics.”