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Amongst the many suggested experiments in it one, on using the speed of sound to determine the distance to a firing cannon, gave him the knowledge to surprise his family by estimating the distance to a lighting flash.
Perhaps it was also this book which inspired him to make a minature cannon out of a hat peg, a marble and blasting powder.
Encouraged by Sir Robert Ball, who wished to solve the difficult problem that a ship could not detect a lighthouse in fog, and sensing fame and fortune, Rutherford increased the sensitivity of his apparatus until, in February of 1896, he could detect electromagnetic waves over a distance of several hundred metres, a then world record. Thomson invited him to join in a study of the electrical conduction of gases.
Wireless telegraphy was thus left for Guglielmo Marconi to develop and commercialize.
At this time he boarded with a widow, Mary Newton, who, as secretary of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, was a leader in the movement which culminated in 1893 when Having failed for the third time to obtain a permanent job as a school-teacher, and having briefly considered going into medicine, Ern had few other options for a career.
He seemed to be limited to tutoring, to help support himself whilst carrying out more research in electrical science.
In this he had been inspired by Nikola Tesla's use of his high frequency Tesla coil to transmit power without wires.Ernest Rutherford left New Zealand in 1895 as a highly skilled 23-year-old who held three degrees from the University of New Zealand and had a reputation as an outstanding researcher and innovator working at the forefront of electrical technology.His brilliance at experimental research was already established.He showed that a steel needle surrounded by a wire loop in the discharge circuit was indeed magnetised for frequencies as high as 500 million per second.By slowly dissolving the needle in acid he showed that only a very thin surface layer of the needle was magnetised. (His brother later became the President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.) Maclaurin could not accept the terms of the scholarship so the University therefore nominated Ern, the only other candidate, who was duly awarded it.