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RADIUM

 

History

In the late 1800's Marie Curie made one of the last significant scientific finds of the 

century. Marie Curie discovered an element called she called radium. Her interest 

was aroused by the discovery, made in 1896 by Henri Becquerel, that compounds of 

uranium exhibit radioactivity. Because of this she started to do experiments with 

uranium to understand radioactivity. The fact that an ore of uranium (pitchblende) was 

four times more radioactive then uranium oxide caused her to suspect that their might 

be an unknown element in the ore to cause this radioactivity. With her husband Pierre 

Curie she repeatedly fractionally crystallized barium chloride (from pitchblende). They 

now had a crystalline substance that was nine hundred times more radioactive then 

uranium. They knew that barium was not radioactive so they reasoned that there was 

another element that was causing the radiation, which they announced to the world in 

1898 as the element radium. It was not until 1902 that Marie Curie was able to isolate 

1/10 of a gram of radium chloride that did not contain barium and it wasn't until 1910 

that she was able to isolate pure radium, which is 1 million times more radioactive than 

uranium or thorium.