The Life and Achievements of Henri Becquerel

Topics: Marie Curie, Radioactive decay, Henri Becquerel Pages: 4 (1279 words) Published: January 17, 2012
Antoine Henri Becquerel was born in Paris on December 15, 1852. He was a member of a family of scholars and scientists over four generations, including his grandfather, Antoine-Cesar Becquerel (1788-1878), his father, Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel (1820-91), and his own son Jean Becquerel (1878-1953). After his early schooling at the Lycee Louis-le-Grand, Henri studied engineering at the École des Ponts et Chaussées (1874-77), history at the École Polytechnique (1872-74) and his fields of science were physics and chemistry. In 1876 he became assistant teacher at the Ecole Polytechnique, where in 1892 he succeeded to the chair of physics at the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, the third in his family to achieve this. In addition to his teaching and research posts, Becquerel was for many years an engineer in the Department of Bridges and Highways, being appointed chief engineer in 1894. By 1896 Henri was a talented and respected physicist but more important than his research were his skills with phosphorescent materials, his knowledge of uranium compounds and his general laboratory techniques which included photography. Combining all these skills together would place the discovery of radioactivity within his hands. Becquerel started investigating the work of German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen on his discovery of x-rays. On 8 November 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen (1845 – 1923) who was a German physicist, discovered electromagnetic radiation in a wavelength range, which today is known as X-rays. He investigated whether there was a connection between this invisible radiation and visible light so

that however stimulated the luminescent materials were, they would also produce X rays. Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium salts released rays that resembled X-rays in their penetrating power. Becquerel was studying phosphorescence in uranium salts which is what resulted in him accidentally discovering radioactivity. He wrapped the fluorescent substance...
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