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28 Apr 2023

History of radiation discovery

On November 8, 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, a German physicist, was conducting experiments at the University of Wurzburg when he stumbled upon a groundbreaking discovery that would revolutionize the fields of physics and medicine. As he studied various physical phenomena, Roentgen observed a glowing fluorescent screen in his laboratory. Upon further investigation, he discovered that the fluorescence was from invisible rays originating from within a glass tube he was studying. These rays were able to penetrate opaque black paper, and Roentgen realized that he had discovered a new type of radiation, which he named "X-rays."

Roentgen's discovery had an immediate impact on the scientific community. He went on to conduct further experiments and published a paper on his findings, which led to the widespread use of X-rays in the medical field. The ability to see inside the human body without surgery or invasive procedures was a groundbreaking advancement, and X-rays quickly became an indispensable tool for medical professionals.

Meanwhile, Antoine Henri Becquerel, a French physicist, was conducting experiments of his own. Becquerel came from a family of scientists and was raised in a scientific environment, which gave him a unique perspective and set of skills. He chose to work with potassium uranyl sulfate and exposed it to sunlight while placing it on photographic plates wrapped in black paper. The developed photographic plates revealed images of the uranium crystals, leading Becquerel to conclude that "the phosphorescent substance in question emits radiation which penetrates paper opaque to light."

However, Becquerel's most significant discovery was a result of serendipity. On February 26th and 27th, 1896, overcast skies in Paris delayed his experiments as he had no source of energy input for his crystals. Uranium-covered plates that were destined for experimentation were simply put away in a drawer. Several days later, on March 1st, he developed the photographic plates, not expecting much from the images. To his astonishment, the images were clear and strong, leading him to conclude that the uranium itself was emitting some form of radiation with no external source of energy required.

Becquerel had discovered radioactivity, the spontaneous emission of radiation by unstable substances. This discovery led to significant advancements in the fields of nuclear physics and chemistry, and it ultimately led to the development of nuclear power and weapons.

In conclusion, Roentgen's discovery of X-rays and Becquerel's discovery of radioactivity were two of the most significant scientific breakthroughs of the late 19th century. Their discoveries not only transformed the fields of physics and medicine but also paved the way for further advancements in nuclear science and technology.

23 Apr 2023

What is health physics ! Origin of the name …

  The field of radiation protection is commonly known as Health Physics, but there has been some debate about how appropriate this name is, as noted by Taylor in 1982. The term was first used in 1942 at the University of Chicago's Metallurgical Laboratory, but it is unclear who coined it. It is believed that either Robert Stone or Arthur Compton came up with the term. The Health Physics Section's primary objective was to design shielding for Fermi's reactor (CP-1), and therefore the initial Health Physics specialists were mostly physicists who were attempting to address health-related issues. According to Robert Stone, Health Physics refers to the use of physical methods to detect potential health risks to personnel, while Raymond Finkle, an early employee of the Health Division, claims that the term was initially used to describe the physics section of the Health Division and was also used for security purposes to avoid arousing unwanted attention that might come with the term "radiation protection."  

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