Ernest, Lord Rutherford: Letters to A.B. Wood

Scope and Content

Typescript and manuscript letters from Ernest Rutherford to A.B. Wood, with a covering note of 28 March 1984.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937), Baron Rutherford of Nelson, was born in Nelson, New Zealand on 30 August 1871. He came to England in 1895 to be a research student under J.J. Thomson at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge. His first professorial appointment was at McGill University, Montreal, 1898-1907, where he and Frederick Soddy advanced the transformation theory. Rutherford worked at Manchester University, England, 1907-1919, where he succeeded Arthur Schuster as director of the physical laboratory. At the university, Hans Geiger, a staff member, and Ernest Marsden, a student, performed the alpha particle scattering experiments that led Rutherford to formulate the concept of the nuclear atom in 1911. Shortly before leaving Manchester in 1919 for Cambridge, where he succeeded his own teacher, J.J. Thomson, Rutherford announced a major discovery, the artificial transformation of one element into another. This work was continued in the Cavendish Laboratory, primarily with the help of James Chadwick. Rutherford was President of the Royal Society, 1925-1930. He died in Cambridge on 19 October 1937.

Albert Beaumont Wood (1890-1964), physicist, was born in Uppermill, Yorkshire. After attending Huddersfield Technical College, he entered Manchester University (B.A., 1912), and subsequently joined Ernest Rutherford's team carrying out atomic physics research. He became lecturer in physics at Liverpool University in 1914, and served on the Admiralty's Board of Invention and Research, 1915-1918. During the First World War, he was based at the Admiralty Research Experimental Station at Hawkcraig, Fife, where he was involved in submarine detection. Wood worked at the Admiralty Research Laboratory, Teddington, 1921-1936, and was chief scientist at H.M. Mining School, 1937-1943. He was employed at Admiralty H.Q., 1946-1950, and at the Admiralty Research Laboratory, 1950-1964.

Access Information

Open for consultation by holders of a Reader's Ticket valid for the Manuscripts Reading Room.

Acquisition Information

Presented by A.D. Wilson, 1984.


Description compiled by Robert Steiner, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives.

Other Finding Aids


Custodial History

The letters were presented to Mr A.D. Wilson by A.B. Wood's widow.

Related Material

Cambridge University Library holds other papers relating to Ernest Rutherford, MSS.Add.7653, 8249 and 8832.


Extracts from the letters are printed in David Wilson, Rutherford: simple genius (London, 1983).