This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – brightrecruits.com can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today

Blog

What Rutherford may have left behind

rutherford.jpg

By Hamish Johnston

Did the leftovers from experiments done by Ernest Rutherford and others contribute to the deaths of two University of Manchester academics nearly a century later?

That’s the question facing Manchester coroner Nigel Meadows, who will lead an inquest into the deaths of Arthur Reader and Tom Whiston, who both died of pancreatic cancer in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Rutherford arrived at the University of Manchester in 1907 and spent the next 12 years experimenting with radioactive materials as well as toxic substances such as mercury. It was there that he established the existence of the atomic nucleus.

Rutherford’s lab was in the New Physical Laboratories (renamed several times before it became the Rutherford building in 2006), which continued to be used by the physics department until the late 1960s. The psychology department moved there in 1972 — but staff only discovered that something was wrong in 2001 when several rooms were sealed off because of radiation and mercury contamination.

In 2008, three psychologists and longtime occupants of the building published a 294-page report entitled Possible health risks due to ionising radiation in the Rutherford Building.

In their report, John Churcher, Don O’Boyle and Neil Todd conclude:

“There remains significant uncertainty concerning the extent to which radioactive
contamination of the Coupland 1/Rutherford building may have affected the health of
staff of the Department of Psychology who occupied part of it during the 25 years to
1999 and the health of others who occupied it earlier.

However, in 2009 the epidemiologist David Coggon of Southampton University tabled an independent report that concluded the deaths (as well as the health problems of several other occupants) were probably not linked to the contamination. You can read Coggon’s report here.

It will be interesting to see how the coroner’s findings compare to previous investigations.

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Leave a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Guidelines

  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="http://www.google.com">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="http://iop.org/">IOP</blockquote>
IOP
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="http://www.worldwildlife.org/who/index.html">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text
WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux