HALF LIVES: The Unlikely History of Radium

Book number: 92129 Product format: Hardback Author: LUCY JANE SANTOS

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Bibliophile price £3.75
Published price £16.99


We are transported back to a time when consumers wondered whether mixing radium into chicken feed might result in eggs that could hard-boil themselves, when diners cheerfully drank radioactive cocktails that glowed in the dark, and when people used toothpaste containing lethal thorium oxide in pursuit of healthy gums. The book unpicks fact from fiction and exhibits a masterful grasp of a complex area of science history that is so often mis-told. Of all the radioactive elements discovered at the end of the 19th century, it was radium that became the focus of both public fascination and entrepreneurial zeal. Here is the macabre story of the element through its ascendence as a desirable item - a present for a queen, a prize in a treasure hunt, a glow-in-the-dark dance costume - to its role as a supposed cure-all in everyday 20th century life when business people (reputable and otherwise) devised ingenious ways of commodifying the new wonder element. Enthusiastic customers welcomed their radioactive wares into their homes. Historian Lucy Jane Santos, herself the proud owner of a formidable collection of radium beauty treatments, delves into these stories and details the gradual downfall and discredit of the radium industry through the eyes of the people who bought, sold and eventually came to fear the once-fetishized substance. It was also to be a cure for cancer, and the book looks at the interplay between science and popular culture. 280pp, photos.

Additional product information

ISBN 9781785786075

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