For at least 70 years, the near-consensus of the scientific community about the person who discovered the first confirmed artificial nuclear transmutation has been wrong. An illustrated example of the myth appears in a frame of a 1948 comic book produced by the General Electric Co. The book, Adventures Inside the Atom, sponsored by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, was propaganda intended to promote the new age of atomic energy.
The book begins in ancient Greece with Aristotle and the concept of the atom. Eventually, the story arrives at the University of Cambridge, in the laboratory of Ernest Rutherford.
Myth of the first artificial nuclear transmutation, 1948, General Electric Co.
According to the myth, Rutherford bombarded nitrogen nuclei with energetic alpha particles and, in doing so, became the world's first successful alchemist, changing the element nitrogen into the element oxygen.
He did no such thing. Instead, Patrick Blackett, a research fellow working in Rutherford's lab in Cambridge, performed the experiment, obtained the data, analyzed it correctly, and published it in a journal article in 1925. The full details, not only of this history but also of how I learned the facts, are in my 2016 book Lost History. At the time, I had located only two historians who had published the correct version of this history: Milorad Mladjenovic and Peter Galison. I later found that Mary Jo Nye and Roger Stuewer also correctly described the history.
In early 2017, after the book published, I began contacting prominent organizations or organizations with top-ranking search results for the topic and requested that they make corrections to their Web sites.
The American Institute of Physics and the U.S. Department of Energy (hyperlinked below) performed the most comprehensive independent review of my findings.
Chemical equation for first confirmed artificial elemental transmutation, depicted on 7-cent New Zealand stamp and erroneously attributed to Rutherford.