US President Donald Trump causes outrage by claiming US split the atom, invented telephone, won both World Wars

US President Donald Trump has given the US credit for splitting the atom in a speech which has outraged New Zealanders. 

During a speech at Mount Rushmore on 4 July Trump told a crowd the US "harnessed electricity, split the atom, and gave the world the telephone and the internet". The quote was then reposted by the official White House Twitter account.

Multiple people in the comments were quick to point out the claim and others in the quote were misleading.

America split the atom 

"Ernest Rutherford, a New Zealander, split the atom thank you very much," wrote one person

In 1917 Rutherford said he had "broken the machine and touched the ghost of matter" by using an alpha particle to knock a proton out of a nitrogen atom. 

While he called it "playing with marbles" papers reported it as "splitting the atom". 

Some argue Rutherford was not the first to split the atom and rather it was his students Ernest Walton and John Cockcroft.

In the early 1930s Cockcroft and Walton were under the supervision of Rutherford at Cambridge University. Rutherford had been investigating atoms for more than 20 years and encouraged his two students to work together to use electricity to see inside the atom's nucleus.

In 1932, more than a decade after Rutherford's breakthrough, Walton and Cockcroft managed to split an atom in two. The pair (neither of whom were from the US) went on to win the Nobel Prize in physics in 1951 for their work, which was inspired by Rutherford. 

America invented the telephone

The inventor of the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell was born in Scotland. His work towards the first telephone was mostly completed in Canada. He would eventually become a US citizen - six years after he invented the telephone.

America "settled the Wild West"

US President Donald Trump causes outrage by claiming US split the atom, invented telephone, won both World Wars
Photo credit: Getty / Twitter

Trump's claim of "settling the Wild West" also drew criticism for marginalising the large scale bloodshed upon which America was built.

It's not the first time Trump has mentioned "settling" the West - he also used the phrase in his February state of the union address, and again in his July speech at the 400th anniversary of the first representative legislative assembly at Williamsburg.

The phrase has been blasted for erasing history and the indidgenous Native American population who were brutalised at the hands of Christopher Columbus and his armies. 

Vox journalist Jessica Machado wrote after his February speech that the claim "erases" Native people.

"In his retelling of history, the president not only erased the millions of Native peoples prior to Columbus's arrival in 1492, but suggested that their lands, livelihoods, and existence were something to be tamed and conquered."

Commenters on Twitter backed this view, slamming Trump for glamourising colonisation.

"By settled the wild west I assume you mean colonized and all but eradicated an already established population of humans, correct?" 

America won both World Wars

The claim that America won both world wars is also controversial - in the words of British military historian Max Hastings, each of the victorious nations "emerged from the Second World War confident in the belief that it's own role had been decisive in procuring victory".

While the US certainly played a vital role in both wars the claim the wars were won by it has long since been a point of contention. America only entered the First World War, after two and a half years of determined effort to stay out of it, because Germany sank several US merchant ships. 

In the Second World War the US again tried to stay out of the conflict, viewing it as fairly distant. However the attack on Pearl Harbour unified public opinion and paved the way for the US to join the war effort in its final years.

The claim that the US won both wars angered people on social media, who commented that taking credit removes the power of the other countries who fought in both wars.

"The war isn't won without all those involved working together," wrote one person.

"By win two world wars you mean do nothing and only contribute at the last minute after the bulk of fighting?" wrote another.