Sir Ernest Marsden FRS is recognized as one of New Zealand’s greatest scientists. He was born in Lancashire, UK in 1889 and studied at the University of Manchester where he worked for a time under Ernest Rutherford. It is here he undertook with Hans Geiger the famous alpha particle scattering experiment from gold foil (in 1909) under Rutherford’s supervision. This is the experiment that was seminal in Rutherford’s discovery of the atomic nucleus.
A short time after graduating from Manchester, Marsden travelled to New Zealand to take up a position as professor of physics at the Victoria University College in Wellington, a position he obtained on Rutherford’s recommendation. Later, in 1926 he established the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, which became NZ’s government science research laboratories, where a wide range of research especially in agricultural science was undertaken.
Sir Ernest Marsden
In 1942 DSIR established a Division of Industrial Psychology, to support the war effort, and it was here that my family’s link with Sir Ernest was made. My father set up the new DSIR division and worked as its director, working under Sir Ernest Marsden. The two became close friends, both during this war-time ...