About Rutherford's Atomic Theory


Rutherford's Atomic Theory was a revolutionary theory regarding the nature of atomic structure that varied significantly from past theories on the same subject matter. In fact, although the Rutherford Atomic Theory was first posited in 1911, many facets of it are still accepted by the majority of the scientific community.

History of

  • In the early 1900s the predominant theory regarding how atoms were physically structured was called the Plum Pudding Model. The Plum Pudding Model had been theorized and established by J. J. Thomson. In 1911, physicist Ernest Rutherford used his experimental data from several different experiments to conclude that the basic atomic structure was very different than that proposed by the Plum Pudding Model. Rutherford's work eventually led to the coherent theory which we refer to today as Rutherford's Atomic Theory.


  • The basic difference between Rutherford's Atomic Theory and the Plum Pudding Model has to do with the fact that the Plum Pudding Model theorized that an atom was made up electrons (the plums) surrounded by a positively charged mass (the pudding). Rutherford later proved that this wasn't the case and theorized that atoms were comprised of a very small nucleus surrounded by electrons. The basic tenets of that statement are still held to be true in the modern era.


  • Many people believe that Rutherford's Atomic Theory is essentially the same as Bohr's Atomic Model, which is untrue. Bohr's Model was inspired by Rutherford's work and built upon it, but the Bohr Atomic Model contains certain elements that were definitely missing from Rutherford's Atomic Theory. The chief difference is the fact that Niels Bohr, when theorizing the design of the atom, included a thesis for the forces that help to hold the atomic structure together. The Bohr model is still widely accepted by contemporary scientists.

Time Frame

  • The Bohr model of the atom was established in 1913 as the leading theory of atomic structure. Because of this, it can be truthfully said that Rutherford's Atomic Theory was an extremely short-lived phenomenon. Despite its brief time frame, however, Rutherford's theory was extremely important because Niels Bohr wouldn't have been able to develop his own model without the established background that Rutherford's Atomic Theory laid out for him.


  • The effects of Rutherford's Atomic Theory are truly awe inspiring and the shockwaves are still being felt today. As mentioned, Rutherford's work paved the way for the Bohr Model of the atom, which is still widely accepted. Much of modern science and medicine has atomic theory at its very root. Without Rutherford's previous work, then, and without the later polishing work done by Niels Bohr, the face of contemporary science would be unimaginably different.

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