Radioactivity : a history of a mysterious science / Marjorie C. Malley
- Malley, Marjorie Caroline, 1941-
- New York : Oxford University Press, 
- Copyright Date:
- Physical Description:
- xxi, 267 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm
- A New Science. The beginnings. The setting ; Rays and radiation ; Becquerel's discovery -- The Curies. Maria Skłodowska ; A consequential meeting ; New elements! -- Rutherford, Soddy, particles, and alchemy? Rutherford and the rays ; Where did the energy come from? ; Material rays? Discovery of the beta particle ; Thorium's rays ; Vanishing radioactivity ; Transmutation! ; A missed discovery ; Reactions ; Atomic energy? ; Tragedy ; More rays ; The alpha particle -- The radioactive Earth. The prospectors ; How old is the earth? ; A new property of matter? -- Speculations. Early theories ; Radioactivity and probability ; Kinetic models of the atom -- Radioactivity and chemistry. The rise of radiochemistry ; Radioactive genealogy ; Chemistry of the imponderable ; Inseparable radioelements ; Isotopes ; Displacement laws ; The end of the lines ; More isotopes -- Inside the atom. Building blocks ; Bombarding atoms ; The nuclear atom ; The nucleus and the periodic table ; The gamma rays ; Theories of the nucleus -- Sequel. War! ; Radioactivity during World War I ; From radioactivity to nuclear and particle physics -- Measuring and Using Radioactivity. Methods and instruments. Crucial choices ; Standardizing the measures ; Innovations ; Size, money, and machines -- Radioactivity, medicine, and life. Unpleasant surprises ; From burns to treatments ; Rays and other organisms ; Miracle cure? ; Radioactive spas ; Dangers in the laboratory -- New industries. Early industry ; Soaring demand and new institutions ; Paint that glowed in the dark ; A new poison ; Fission, bombs, and the uranium rush ; Radioactivity and the oil industry -- Beyond the Story. Radioactivity's prime movers. Technology, resources, and professional changes ; Individuals ; Research groups ; Scientific ideals and culture ; Mentors and models ; Age, attitudes, and ambition ; Nationalism -- Radioactivity and timeless questions : the quest for understanding. Models and theories for radioactivity ; Patterns in radioactivity's development ; Radioactivity and ideas about change ; Radioactivity and ideas about matter and energy ; Radioactivity and ideas about continuity and discontinuity ; Eternal conundrums -- The imaginative appeal of a discovery. Mythological and romantic dimensions of radioactivity ; An ongoing task -- Glossary of rays and radiations -- Family trees for radioactive elements -- Radioactivity's elusive cause -- Nobel Prize winners included in this book -- Radioactivity's web of influence -- Timeline.
- This is the story of a new science. Beginning with an obscure discovery in 1896, radioactivity led researchers on a quest for understanding that ultimately confronted the intersection of knowledge and mystery. Mysterious from the start, radioactivity attracted researchers who struggled to understand it. What caused certain atoms to give off invisible, penetrating rays? Where did the energy come from? These questions became increasingly pressing when researchers realized the process seemed to continue indefinitely, producing huge quantities of energy. Investigators found cases where radioactivity did change, forcing them to the startling conclusion that radioactive bodies were transmuting into other substances. Chemical elements were not immutable after all. Radioactivity produced traces of matter so minuscule and evanescent that researchers had to devise new techniques and instruments to investigate them. Scientists in many countries, but especially in laboratories in Paris, Manchester, and Vienna unraveled the details of radioactive transformations. They created a new science with specialized techniques, instruments, journals, and international conferences. Women entered the field in unprecedented numbers. Experiments led to revolutionary ideas about the atom and speculations about atomic energy. The excitement spilled over to the public, who expected marvels and miracles from radium, a scarce element discovered solely by its radioactivity. The new phenomenon enkindled the imagination and awakened ancient themes of literature and myth. Entrepreneurs created new industries, and physicians devised novel treatments for cancer. Radioactivity gave archaeologists methods for dating artifacts and meteorologists a new explanation for the air's conductivity. Their explorations revealed a mysterious radiation from space. Radioactivity profoundly changed science, politics, and culture. The field produced numerous Nobel Prize winners, yet radioactivity's talented researchers could not solve the mysteries underlying the new phenomenon. That was left to a new generation and a new way of thinking about reality. Not merely a historical account, the book examines philosophical issues connected with radioactivity, and relates its topics to broader issues regarding the nature of science.
- 9780199766413 (hardcover : alk. paper) and 019976641X
- Bibliography Note:
- Includes bibliographical references (pages 235-250) and indexes.
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