In the late 1800s, physicists knew that the atom contained large quantities of energy, and in 1904 Ernest Rutherford, the so-called “father of nuclear energy”, wrote
“If it were possible to control…an enormous amount of energy could be obtained from a small amount of matter.”
Shortly afterward, Einstein formulated his famous equation, E=mc^2, which states that energy is inherent in anything that has mass. In the late 1930s, physicists began experimenting to prove Einstein’s formula, and in 1942, the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear reaction took place.
Many say that Ernest Rutherhford, the father of nuclear physics was the one that thought of nuclear power. He is credited with splitting the atom in 1919 by bombarding nitrogen with naturally occurring alpha particles from radioactive material and observed a proton emitted wiht energy higher than the alpha particle. Nuclear fission was first experimentally achieved by Enrico Fermi in 1934, when he bombarded uranium with neutrons.
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