His background is rather unique, having been born in New Zealand, a country which, within a mere 50 years of formal European settlement of that remote British Colony, could admit him to its, already 20-year-old, university. Ernest Rutherford was born at Spring Grove in rural Nelson on August 30th 1871, the second son and fourth child of twelve born to James and Martha Rutherford. Scottish James had arrived in New Zealand in 1843 as a four-year old. James became a wheelwright and engineer, and later a flax-miller. As a boy Ernest was surrounded by hard-working people with technical skills. Martha Rutherford (née Thompson) was born in England and arrived in New Plymouth in 1855 as a thirteen-year old. She was evacuated to Nelson in 1860 during the Taranaki Land War. Had it not been for that war James and Martha would never have met. Martha became a teacher at the Spring Grove school where her efforts were always praised by the provincial school inspector. So Ernest Rutherford and his siblings received a good education because of parents who appreciated education: his father because he hadn't had much and his mother because she had. Ern led the life typical of a child growing up in rural New Zealand. Family chores, such as milking cows and gathering firewood, ate up time after school. On Saturdays the boys were free for swimming in the creek, and birdsnesting to raise money for catapult rubber and kite strings. The family shifted according to the father's work; in 1876 to Foxhill for farming and railway construction, in 1883 to Havelock in the Marlborough Sounds for flax-milling, and finally in 1888 to Taranaki for flaxmilling.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document