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What was Ernest Rutherford's atomic theory?

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Quick Answer

Rutherford’s atomic theory was that an atom had a central positive nucleus with negative electrons orbiting it. He developed this theory with his gold foil experiment.

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Ernest Rutherford’s gold foil experiment involved a particle emitter, a round detecting screen with a slit in it and a slip of gold foil in the middle. The detecting screen had zinc sulfide in it to allow Rutherford to detect the presence of particles after they passed through the filtering gold foil. Through this experiment, Rutherford determined that the vast majority of the particles he fired at the gold foil passed right through it. Only about one in 8,000 was deflected away into the surrounding detecting screen. As a result, Rutherford created a theory that stated that most of an atom was empty space. This made the most sense, since it explained why so few particles were hitting the gold foil. The angle of deflection from the particles also showed that there was most likely a strong positively charged nucleus in the middle of the atom with negatively charged particles circling around it. Rutherford linked this motion to the orbit of planets around the sun. The Bohr atomic model later replaced the Rutherford model.

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