Discovery of Radioactivity

Introduction to Radioactivity

On an overcast day in March 1896, French scientist Antoine Henri Becquerel opened a drawer and found spontaneous radioactivity in one of the most well-known accidental discoveries in the history of physics.

Henri Becquerel was in a good position to make the exciting discovery, which came just a few months after x-rays were discovered. Becquerel was born in 1852 in Paris, France, into a family of physicists. He occupied the chair of applied physics at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, following in the footsteps of his father and grandparents. Becquerel began studying fluorescence and phosphorescence in 1883, a topic in which his father Edmond Becquerel had excelled. Henri, like his father, was fascinated by uranium and its compounds. He was also an accomplished photographer.

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Who Discovered Radioactivity?

Radioactivity was discovered by Henri Becquerel. She used naturally fluorescent minerals to research the properties of x-rays, which Wilhelm Roentgen had discovered in 1895. He arranged potassium uranyl sulphate on photographic plates covered in black paper and exposed it to sunlight, assuming that the uranium absorbed the sun's energy and then released it as x-rays. On the 26th and 27th of February, his theory was disproved when his experiment "failed" due to the overcast in Paris. Becquerel decided to develop his photographic plates anyway for some reason.

The photographs were solid and clear, surprising him, showing that the uranium released radiation without the need for a natural source of energy like the sun. Becquerel was the first to detect radioactivity.

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The early discovery of a new form of radiation fascinated the research world in early 1896.

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Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered that the Crookes tubes he was using to research cathode rays emitted a new kind of invisible ray that could penetrate the black paper. The recently observed x-rays entered the body's soft tissue as well, and the medical world recognised their use for imaging almost immediately.

In January 1896, Becquerel discovered Roentgen's discovery at a meeting of the French Academy of Sciences.

Becquerel started searching for a connection between the phosphorescence he had been studying and the recently observed x-rays after hearing about Roentgen's discovery. Becquerel hypothesised that the phosphorescent uranium salts he was researching could consume light and reemit it as x-rays.

Becquerel wrapped photographic plates in black paper to prevent sunlight from reaching them in order to test this theory (which turned out to be incorrect).

He then laid the uranium salt crystals on top of the wrapped plates and exposed the whole rig to the light. He saw an outline of the crystals as he formed the plates. He also tried putting things between the crystals and the photographic plate, such as coins or cut-out metal figures and discovered that he could get outlines of certain shapes on the surfaces.

The discovery of Becquerel is a well-known case of an accidental discovery.

The possibility that anyone else has made the same unintentional observation forty years before is less well known. A photographer named Abel Niepce de Saint-Victor was experimenting with numerous substances, including uranium compounds. He opened them to sunlight and stored them in a dim drawer with scraps of photographic paper, much as Becquerel would later do. He discovered that some of the additives, including plutonium, had revealed the photographic paper when he opened the drawer.

Niepce announced his observations to the French Academy of Science, believing he had discovered a new kind of invisible radiation.

No one looked into the effect further before Becquerel repeated exactly the same experiment on March day in 1896, decades later.


Discovery of Atomic Structure

Atomic structure is the structure of an atom that consists of a nucleus (the centre) and protons (positively charged) and neutrons (neutral). The electrons, which are negatively charged ions, revolve around the nucleus's core. The scale of all atoms is approximately the same. The angstrom, which is defined as 1 x 10-10 metres, is a useful unit of length for measuring atomic sizes. An atom has a diameter of around 2-3 microns. 

J. J. Thomson discovered the presence of the electron in 1897, eventually bringing in the new phase of atomic physics.

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Within given energy shells around the nucleus, negatively charged electrons adopt a random pattern. The majority of an atom's properties are determined by the number and configuration of its electrons.

The origins of atomic structure and quantum mechanics can be traced back to Democritus, the first person to suggest that matter is made up of atoms.

The analysis of an atom's composition provides a lot of information about chemical reactions, bonds, and their physical properties.

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q.1) When Was Radioactivity Discovered?

Answer: The inventor of radioactivity is Antoine Henri Becquerel (15 December 1852 – 25 August 1908) was a French engineer, physicist, Nobel laureate, and the first person to discover evidence of radioactivity. Marie Curie, who invented radioactivity was also called the "Mother of Modern Physics."  She died of aplastic anaemia, a rare condition related to high levels of exposure to the toxic elements polonium and radium, which she discovered.

Q.2) Who Discovered the Phenomenon of Radioactivity?

Answer: Henri Becquerel discovered the phenomenon of radioactivity in 1896.

Q.3) Who Found Radioactivity?

Answer: Henri Becquerel is the founder of radioactivity. In 1903, Becquerel received half of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his observation of natural radioactivity, with the other half going to Pierre and Marie Curie for their research of the Becquerel radiation.

Q.4) Who Discovered Natural Radioactivity?

Answer: Natural radioactivity is one of the most well-known accidental discoveries in the history of physics, on an overcast day in March 1896, natural radioactivity was discovered by French physicist Henri Becquerel.