Sunday, April 22, 2018

This Week in Science History: Isolating Radium

Article Written By: Teresa Marotta


On April 20, 1902, Marie and Pierre Curie successfully isolated one gram of radium. This was done through the isolation of radioactive radium salts from the mineral pitchblende in their laboratory in Paris. The pair discovered both radium and polonium while researching the mineral pitchblende in 1898. Pierre’s work primarily involved the investigation of physical properties of new elements while Marie worked to chemically isolate radium from pitchblende. The element radium does not occur freely in nature, so Marie and her assistant Andre Debierne had to refined several tons of the mineral pitchblende in order to isolate a mere one-tenth gram of pure radium chloride in 1902. In 1903, Marie and Pierre were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics along with Henri Becquerel for their research in of radioactivity. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.

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