Ernest Rutherford publishes his atomic theory describing the atom as having a central positive nucleus surrounded by negative orbiting electrons. This model suggested that most of the mass of the atom was contained in the small nucleus, and that the rest of the atom was mostly empty space. Rutherford came to this conclusion following the results of his famous gold foil experiment. This experiment involved the firing of radioactive particles through minutely thin metal foils (notably gold) and detecting them using screens coated with zinc sulfide (a scintillator). Rutherford found that although the vast majority of particles passed straight through the foil approximately 1 in 8000 were deflected leading him to his theory that most of the atom was made up of 'empty space'.



Further info:

Nobel - Ernest Rutherford -
http://www2.slac.stanford.edu/vvc/nobel/rutherford.html