Do you know who discovered radioactivity? In this article we will tell about the scientist to whom this merit belongs. Antoine Henri Becquerel is a French physicist, Nobel Prize winner. It was he who in 1896 discovered the radioactivity of uranium salts.
The origin of the scientist
Becquerel Henri was born on December 15, 1852 in Paris, in the Cuvier house, which was the property of the National Museum of Natural History. The life of each of the members of the famous Becquerel dynasty was connected with this house. The grandfather of the future scientist, Antoine César Becquerel (years of life - 1788-1878), was first a member of the Paris Academy of Sciences, and since 1838 - its president. Studies of minerals carried out by him have gained wide popularity. In particular, he studied their magnetic, thermoelectric, piezoelectric, mechanical and other properties. In the house was a unique collection of samples, which played a big role in the life of Becquerel Alexander Edmond, the son of Antoine Cesar. This man (years of life - 1820-1891) also engaged in research. In addition, he was a member of the Paris Academy of Sciences, and from 1880 he became its president. Also, Henri Becquerel's father was a professor of physics and served as director of the National Museum of Natural History.
The first studies of Henri
When Henri was 18 years old, he began to help his father in his studies, becoming his assistant. It was then that he had an interest in the problems of photography and phosphorescence, which remained with Becquerel for life. This interest was inherited by Antoine Henri, his son. Henri Becquerel's book, "Light, Its Causes and Actions," later became Antoine's reference book.
Antoine César, the grandfather of our hero, paid very great attention to the education of his grandson. In the boy from a young age there was something that allowed Antoine, who did not see his outstanding abilities, still believe that he would go far.
Training in the Lyceum and Polytechnic School
The atmosphere that prevailed in Cuvier's house contributed to the formation of Henri's profound and serious interest in physics. The boy was identified in the Lyceum of Louis Legrand. In this educational institution, it should be noted, he was lucky with the teachers. At the age of 19, in 1872, Becquerel Henry graduated from the Lyceum. Then he continued his studies at the Polytechnic School. From the first course, the young man began to actively conduct his own scientific research. Subsequently, the experimental skills acquired at that time were very useful to him.
Tragedy in his personal life, the first publication
At the end of the institute, Henry began a three-year service period at the Institute of Railways, where he carried out engineering activities. At this time, he married the daughter of a physics professor. The girl was called Lucy Jamen. He met her in the Lyceum years. However, the family happiness of the scientist was short. Becquerel Henry lost his beloved wife, who was barely 20 years old. She left him a newborn son, Jean.
Science helped Henri survive this loss. The scientist completely immersed himself in his research. In 1875 the first publication of Henri Becquerel (in the Journal de physicist) was held. His article was noticed, and the 24-year-old scientist was offered to become a tutor at the Polytechnic School. In this educational institution 20 years later he was already a professor.
Working with the father, doctoral thesis
Becquerel Henry in 1878 began to work in the Museum of Natural History, where he was an assistant to his father. Basically the subject of their works was connected with the field of magneto-optics and crystal optics. In particular, scientists carried out interesting studies of how the plane of polarization of light rotates in a magnetic field . This curious phenomenon was discovered by Michael Faraday. Every day, watching the progress of his son, who was already known as an excellent experimenter, Father Henry felt pride in him. Antoine Henri Becquerel in 1888 presented his doctoral dissertation at the Sorbonne. This work was a continuation of the research of his father and grandfather, as well as the ten-year works of the author himself. She was rated very highly.
Scientific career and new marriage
Henri Becquerel became a member of the Paris Academy of Sciences a year later. He took the post of secretary of the physical department. Three years later, Henri was already a professor at the National Museum of Natural History. His second marriage, 14 years after widowhood, refers to this same time.
Important discovery, made accidentally
If it were not for the will of chance, we would remember this scientist only as a conscientious and qualified experimenter, but nothing more. However, there was one very important event. It was thanks to him that Henri Becquerel became famous throughout the world. Interesting facts about this scientist are numerous, but the most curious, perhaps, is connected with the way he discovered radioactivity.
On March 1, Henri Becquerel investigated the luminescence of uranium salts in his laboratory. After completing his work, he wrapped a sample (covered in uranium salt with a patterned metal plate) in opaque and dense black paper. The scientist put this sample on the box with photographic plates, which is in the drawer of the table, and closed the box. After a while, Henri took out a box of photographic plates. He showed them, most likely, following his habit of carefully checking everything. The scientist was puzzled, because he found that for some reason they were outshone. Henri saw an image of a metal patterned plate, which somehow manifested itself. How could he explain this? The light could not get to the plates in any way. Consequently, as Becquerel realized, some other rays caused this action.
Further study of the rays discovered by Becquerel
Physicists already knew about the existence of rays that lead to blackening of photographic plates and are invisible to the eye. Only six months before this, Roentgen made his sensational discovery. Detection of X-rays is one of the most important events in the history of physics. At this time, everyone was talking about him. Perhaps that is why the report that the physicist Henri Becquerel did at the Paris Academy of Sciences on March 2, 1896, was met with keen interest. The scientist on May 12 spoke about his discovery at the Museum of Natural History, in front of a wide audience. And then he reported this to the Paris International Physical Congress, held in August 1900. By that time, the one who discovered radioactivity had already realized that the radiation he detected was not luminescence. It is also unlike other radiation known to physicists. Neither for chemical, nor for physical (pressure, heating, etc.) impacts it did not change. In any case, it was not possible to detect a decrease in its intensity. It seemed that an inexhaustible source radiates this energy.
By that time it was already known that the action of the invisible rays discovered by Becquerel leads not only to the blackening of the photographic plates. They also produce other actions, including biological ones. For example, on the body of Becquerel from the drug, which was in his pocket, ulcers were formed. They did not heal for a long time. Since then, scientists began to put drugs in lead boxes.
Cooperation with M. and P. Curie
Among those who became interested in Becquerel's discovery, there were a number of outstanding scientists. It should be noted Henri Poincare, as well as DI Mendeleyev, who specially arrived in Paris to get acquainted with his author. Also among these scholars were the spouses Maria and Pierre Curie. Curie's interest led to important results. The history of the discovery of radioactivity continued with the fact that it turned out that it is inherent, in addition to uranium, and some other chemical elements, albeit to varying degrees. Scientists continued to study the physical nature of the rays discovered by Becquerel. As a result, the effect of energy release, which occurs during radioactive decays, as well as induced radioactivity, was discovered.
Outstanding achievements of Henri Becquerel received a well-deserved recognition. The scientist was invited to the Royal Society of London. In addition, the Paris Academy of Sciences awarded Henri all the distinctions that were at that time. Becquerel August 8, 1900 spoke in Paris at the International Physical Congress, where he read the main report.
After 3 years, he was awarded the Nobel Prize (in conjunction with Maria and Pierre Curie) Henri Becquerel. His biography is also interesting because this scientist was the first Frenchman to bring the Nobel medal to Paris. The Curie couple, unfortunately, could not come to receive it in Stockholm. For them, the Nobel Prize was awarded to the French minister.
last years of life
Enthusiasm, honors, international recognition - all this was waiting for Henri Becquerel. However, he did not change his lifestyle. Until recently, the scientist remained a humble worker devoted to science. Henri Becquerel, whose discoveries proved so important for the further development of science, died at Le Croisic (Brittany) at the age of 55. Craters on Mars and the Moon are named in his honor, as well as a unit of radioactivity - Becquerel. The name of this scientist is included in the list of the greatest French scientists, who is on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower.
The fate of Jean Becqueret
The scientific career of Jean Becquerel was also successful. He was a worthy successor to his father. This scientist was born on February 5, 1878 in Paris, where all Becquerels worked. His life was long. The scientist died at the age of 75, being a member of the Paris Academy of Sciences and a recognized physicist.
Like all fundamentally new achievements, such as the discovery of energy-saving technologies, the discovery of radioactivity gave scientists not only answers. It also created new questions and problems. What mechanism underlies radioactive decays? What are the actions of the rays and why? These and other questions scientists still do not have an exhaustive answer.