Two remarkable men, Ernest Rutherford in New Zealand and Chandrasekhara Raman in India, had very demanding early backgrounds from which most would fail to emerge with distinction. Yet, each rose to the top in science, Rutherford being awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1908 and Raman the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930. Their fascinating lives overlapped in interesting ways. There were many hurdles that each needed to overcome, mainly due to the early lack of both finance and good research facilities, and each required fortitude, resilience, industry and insight. The careers of both scientists should be an inspiration to today's students. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.