Posted December 26, 2013
For scientists, there is often a rush to publish findings before someone else does—a rush to announce a discovery, just in case someone else is working in the same area and about to discover the same thing!
On this date in 1898, Marie and Curie announced that (a mere five days earlier) they had isolated from a complex mineral called pitchblende an “active” element that they named radium.
What I mean by “active” is that pitchblende gives off radiation similar to X-rays. Two years earlier another scientist had discovered that uranium gives off such radiation, and uranium is definitely present in pitchblende. But the radiation from pitchblende is four times stronger than the radiation from uranium itself, Marie found, so she was certain that another, much more active element could also be found in the mineral.
And she was right! But it took quite a bit of time and labor to prove it and to isolate the tiny amounts of radium in the mineral. From a ton of pitchblende, only one-tenth of a gram (around 2/10,000ths of a pound) of radium could be collected!
Learn more about radium here.
Learn more about Marie Curie here. I must mention here that Curie is the first woman to win a Nobel prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the only person to win in two different sciences (physics and chemistry)!
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