Category Archives: NZ Personalities

The Kiwi who split the atom. 1917: Sir Ernest Rutherford, our greatest scientist’s biggest breakthrough.

Ernest Rutherford and Hans Geiger in the physics laboratory at Manchester University.

“I have broken the machine and touched the ghost of matter.”

So proclaimed Sir Ernest Rutherford a century ago, in the same year he became the first person to split the atom.

By that point, the Nelson-born godfather of modern atomic physics had already received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry (in 1908) and a star scientist at Cambridge, McGill and Manchester universities.

His greatest triumphs came in three landmark discoveries, which forever changed modern science and created the field of nuclear physics.

In the first, for which he received his Nobel Prize, he conducted a clever experiment using an air-tight glass tube and radioactive radium emanation to prove that alpha particles are helium ions.

In doing so, Rutherford effectively had, said James Campbell in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biographies, “unravelled the mysteries of radioactivity, showing that some heavy atoms spontaneously decay into slightly lighter, and chemically different, atoms”.

“This discovery of the natural transmutation of elements first brought him to world attention.”

Later, Rutherford and his young student, Ernest Marsden – who would become a world-renowned physicist in his own right – conducted an experiment that allowed Rutherford to deduce that nearly all of the mass of an atom was concentrated in a nucleus a thousand times smaller than the atom itself.

This gave birth to the nuclear model of the atom – and later formed the basis for revealing the stable orbit of the atom.

In his third and most famous discovery, in 1917, Rutherford succeeded in splitting the atom itself, becoming the first human to create a nuclear reaction.

Albert Einstein called Rutherford a “second Newton” – but the famed scientist wasn’t so different from other ingenious Kiwi innovators.

Of his knack for unorthodox solutions to experiments, Rutherford noted his early years in New Zealand: “We don’t have the money, so we have to think.”

Jamie Morton, NZ Herald

Celia Lashlie Documentary Film: Research and pre-production – Givealittle. 

New Zealand has the worst domestic violence record in the world. Last year 13 babies and toddlers were killed by their parents or step parents. Domestic and child abuse is estimated to cost the country $7billion (2014). The statistics show no sign of an improvement. Yet, Celia Lashlie had the vision, the international credibility and the determination to change all that with her simple message to the world: “Turn to the mothers.” 
It’s only by working with the mothers that we will get to save the lives of these children.

Givealittle.co.nz

Giving Workers What They Want: Honouring The Legacy Of Helen Kelly. – Chris Trotter. 

WHAT BETTER TIME could there be to talk about Kiwi workers’ rights than in the days following Helen Kelly’s death? Who has contributed more to this discussion than the NZ Council of Trade Unions’ (CTU) first female President? And what other contemporary New Zealand trade unionist’s passing could have left such large and stylish shoes to fill?

 

Few would dispute that Kelly was by far the best leader that the CTU has so far produced. The way she was able to combine rock-solid principle with PR smarts made her the labour movement’s most effective twenty-first century union boss. Though she couldn’t quite match the Unite union’s Matt McCarten at street-level campaigning, Kelly’s keen intellect and her winning ways with the news media allowed her to keep the ideals of trade unionism alive in an era notoriously hostile to the claims of collectivism. Bowalley Road

 

Helen Kelly – a fearless campaigner and a fine New Zealander. 

Helen Kelly, the trade unionist who died yesterday after a brave and public battle with cancer, never shirked a fight.

She campaigned tirelessly for safe workplaces, advocated vigorously for women’s rights and employment equity, and was always willing to embrace unpopular causes and confront sacred cows.

Her courage made her a valuable asset to the union movement, and gave workers’ groups political momentum when their ranks thinned through economic change and workplace transformation.

Her qualities earned her respect too from those on the other side of the negotiating table because employers and industry leaders came to recognise a woman with fierce intelligence and tactical skill.

Kelly’s style favoured issues over individuals. “I’m just not into these personality politics,” she told the Weekend Herald this year during a break in treatment for her incurable cancer. “I think values matter.” NZ Herald 

Tractors cross the finish line for Sir Ed’s hut. 

Three tractors on a journey to raise money for the conservation of Sir Edmund Hillary’s hut in Antarctica have made it to the finish line.

The Expedition South team collected donations towards the $1 million needed for the hut between leaving Piha Beach on August 23 and arriving in Mt Cook village about 2pm on Monday. Stuff.co.nz