Newly capped graduate a chip off the old block

If Lord Ernest Rutherford was the "father of the atom", that makes Felix Loten the atom's "great-great-grandson".

But it's not a badge the 22-year-old likes to flash around, even as he follows in the footsteps of his Nobel Prize-winning great-great-grandfather, the first man to split the atom.

Mr Loten graduated yesterday with a mechanical engineering degree from Canterbury University, the same institution Lord Rutherford attended.

After receiving his cap, Mr Loten visited Rutherford's Den - where Lord Rutherford once studied and did his experiments - for the first time.

Comparisons are difficult for him to escape, but Mr Loten does not feel the weight of expectation.

"But yeah, I intend to be successful. I was very good at physics at school, and I always had an interest in it, but I was always going to do engineering."

As for aspiring to Lord Rutherford's great scientific feats: "You can't really expect to, to be honest, can you?"

Mr Loten said he had always been aware of the link to greatness "but we have never made much of it".

"It's a nice thing to know. All my mother's side of the family - [Lord Rutherford ] was on my mother's side - have been very successful."

His close friends all know about the connection and it's "just another thing to hassle me about".

Mr Loten's proud mother, Jane Loten, said her family's link to Lord Rutherford was "nothing special".

"But it's fairly humbling thinking of the great things he has achieved, and how quickly great genes get diluted."

Her son was a "very clever person", always "mulling away on something". In his case "there is something in the genes".

Mrs Loten said her mother was still alive, and had "strong memories" of Lord Rutherford.

"She used to pop in to his lab on the way home from school each day. That was part of the family arrangement."

Felix Loten has graduated in the same year as celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Lord Rutherford receiving the Nobel Prize.

- NZ Herald

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