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Henri Becquerel

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Fields
  
Physics, chemistry

Nationality
  
French

Role
  
Physicist


Name
  
Henri Becquerel

Children
  
Jean Becquerel

Henri Becquerel AntoineHenri Becquerel 1852 1908 Find A Grave Memorial

Born
  
15 December 1852 Paris, France (
1852-12-15
)

Institutions
  
Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers Ecole Polytechnique Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle

Alma mater
  
Ecole Polytechnique Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees

Known for
  
Discovery of Radioactivity

Notable awards
  
Rumford Medal (1900) Nobel Prize in Physics (1903) Barnard Medal (1905) ForMemRS (1908)

Died
  
August 25, 1908, Le Croisic, France

Parents
  
Edmond Becquerel, Aurelie Quenard

Awards
  
Nobel Prize in Physics, Rumford Medal, Copley Medal

Similar People
  
Marie Curie, Pierre Curie, Ernest Rutherford, Wilhelm Rontgen, Edmond Becquerel

Doctoral students
  
Marie Sklodowska-Curie

Henri becquerel


Antoine Henri Becquerel (15 December 1852 – 25 August 1908) was a French physicist, Nobel laureate, and the first person to discover evidence of radioactivity. For work in this field he, along with Marie Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie, received the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics. The SI unit for radioactivity, the becquerel (Bq), is named after him.

Contents

Henri Becquerel Henri Becquerel Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

Henri becquerel


Early life

Henri Becquerel Eon Images Henri Becquerel

Becquerel was born in Paris into a rich family which produced four generations of scientists: Becquerel's grandfather (Antoine César Becquerel), father (Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel), and son (Jean Becquerel). He studied engineering at the École Polytechnique and the École des Ponts et Chaussées. In 1890 he married Louise Désirée Lorieux.

Career

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In 1892, he became the third in his family to occupy the physics chair at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. In 1894, he became chief engineer in the Department of Bridges and Highways.

Henri Becquerel Henri Becquerel Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

Becquerel's earliest works centered on the subject of his doctoral thesis: the plane polarization of light, with the phenomenon of phosphorescence and absorption of light by crystals.

Henri Becquerel antoinehenribecquereljpg

Becquerel's discovery of spontaneous radioactivity is a famous example of serendipity, of how chance favors the prepared mind. Becquerel had long been interested in phosphorescence, the emission of light of one color following a body's exposure to light of another color. In early 1896, in the wave of excitement following Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen's discovery of X-rays on 5 January that year, Becquerel thought that phosphorescent materials, such as some uranium salts, might emit penetrating X-ray-like radiation when illuminated by bright sunlight. His first experiments appeared to show this.

Henri Becquerel Becquerel Henri Kids Encyclopedia Children39s

Describing them to the French Academy of Sciences on 27 February 1896, he said:

One wraps a Lumière photographic plate with a bromide emulsion in two sheets of very thick black paper, such that the plate does not become clouded upon being exposed to the sun for a day. One places on the sheet of paper, on the outside, a slab of the phosphorescent substance, and one exposes the whole to the sun for several hours. When one then develops the photographic plate, one recognizes that the silhouette of the phosphorescent substance appears in black on the negative. If one places between the phosphorescent substance and the paper a piece of money or a metal screen pierced with a cut-out design, one sees the image of these objects appear on the negative ... One must conclude from these experiments that the phosphorescent substance in question emits rays which pass through the opaque paper and reduce silver salts.

But further experiments led him to doubt and then abandon this hypothesis. On 2 March 1896 he reported

I will insist particularly upon the following fact, which seems to me quite important and beyond the phenomena which one could expect to observe: The same crystalline crusts [of potassium uranyl sulfate], arranged the same way with respect to the photographic plates, in the same conditions and through the same screens, but sheltered from the excitation of incident rays and kept in darkness, still produce the same photographic images. Here is how I was led to make this observation: among the preceding experiments, some had been prepared on Wednesday the 26th and Thursday the 27th of February, and since the sun was out only intermittently on these days, I kept the apparatuses prepared and returned the cases to the darkness of a bureau drawer, leaving in place the crusts of the uranium salt. Since the sun did not come out in the following days, I developed the photographic plates on the 1st of March, expecting to find the images very weak. Instead the silhouettes appeared with great intensity ... One hypothesis which presents itself to the mind naturally enough would be to suppose that these rays, whose effects have a great similarity to the effects produced by the rays studied by M. Lenard and M. Röntgen, are invisible rays emitted by phosphorescence and persisting infinitely longer than the duration of the luminous rays emitted by these bodies. However, the present experiments, without being contrary to this hypothesis, do not warrant this conclusion. I hope that the experiments which I am pursuing at the moment will be able to bring some clarification to this new class of phenomena.

By May 1896, after other experiments involving non-phosphorescent uranium salts, he arrived at the correct explanation, namely that the penetrating radiation came from the uranium itself, without any need for excitation by an external energy source.

There followed a period of intense research into radioactivity, including the determination that the element thorium is also radioactive and the discovery of additional radioactive elements polonium and radium by Marie Skłodowska-Curie and her husband Pierre Curie.

In 1903, Becquerel shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Pierre and Marie Skłodowska-Curie "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by his discovery of spontaneous radioactivity".

As often happens in science, radioactivity came close to being discovered nearly four decades earlier in 1857, when Abel Niepce de Saint-Victor, who was investigating photography under Michel Eugène Chevreul, observed that uranium salts emitted radiation that could darken photographic emulsions. By 1861, Niepce de Saint-Victor realized that uranium salts produce "a radiation that is invisible to our eyes". Niepce de Saint-Victor knew Edmond Becquerel, Henri Becquerel's father. In 1868, Edmond Becquerel published a book, La lumière: ses causes et ses effets (Light: Its causes and its effects). On page 50 of volume 2, Edmond noted that Niepce de Saint-Victor had observed that some objects that had been exposed to sunlight could expose photographic plates even in the dark. Niepce further noted that on the one hand, the effect was diminished if an obstruction were placed between a photographic plate and the object that had been exposed to the sun, but " … d'un autre côté, l'augmentation d'effet quand la surface insolée est couverte de substances facilement altérables à la lumière, comme le nitrate d'urane … " ( … on the other hand, the increase in the effect when the surface exposed to the sun is covered with substances that are easily altered by light, such as uranium nitrate … ).

Honors and awards

In 1908, the year of his death, Becquerel was elected Permanent Secretary of the Académie des Sciences. He died at the age of 55 in Le Croisic.

The SI unit for radioactivity, the becquerel (Bq), is named after him. There is a crater called Becquerel on the Moon and also a crater called Becquerel on Mars.

He also received the following awards besides the Nobel Prize for Physics (1903):

  • Rumford Medal (1900)
  • Helmholtz Medal (1901)
  • Barnard Medal (1905)
  • Becquerel was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society (ForMemRS) in 1908.

    References

    Henri Becquerel Wikipedia