Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1898. 1st Edition. FIRST EDITION OF A SEMINAL PAPER BY MARIE CURIE, HER FIRST ON RADIOACTIVITY. Full volume. Curie's paper heralds the discovery of the radioactivity of thorium, coins the term ‘radioactivity,’ and contains the first proof that radiation is an atomic property. The Nobel Prize Committee website notes that, “From a conceptual point of view it is her most important contribution to the development of physics” (Nobel Prize Committee Website).
Soon after the discovery of radioactivity, Marie Curie began more detailed studies of the new phenomenon. “Guided by [the] observation that some natural uranium ores… were more highly radioactive than corresponded to their uranium content, [she] fractionated the ores chemically, using the intensity of radioactivity in the fractions as evidence for further radioactive substances” (Vértes, Handbook of Nuclear Chemistry, 4).
“Results were not long in coming. Just after a few days, Marie discovered that thorium gives off the same rays as uranium. Her continued systematic studies of the various chemical compounds gave the surprising result that the strength of the radiation did not depend on the compound that was being studied. It depended only on the amount of uranium or thorium.
“Chemical compounds of the same element generally have very different chemical and physical properties: one uranium compound is a dark powder, another is a transparent yellow crystal, but what was decisive for the radiation they gave off was only the amount of uranium they contained” (Nobel Prize Committee Website).
Curie’s paper contains the stunning observation that “Two uranium ores are much more active than uranium itself. This fact leads one to believe that these ores may contain an element much more active than uranium.”
“Marie drew the conclusion that the ability to radiate did not depend on the arrangement of the atoms in a molecule, it must be linked to the interior of the atom itself. This discovery was absolutely revolutionary. From a conceptual point of view it is her most important contribution to the development of physics. She now went through the whole periodic system. Her findings were that only uranium and thorium [presented in this paper] gave off this radiation” (Nobel Prize Committee Website).
Pierre Curie was fascinated by Marie’s findings: On 18 March he abandoned his own research projects and joined his wife in the venture” (Adloff).
ALSO INCLUDED: This volume also contains an important paper by Cornu (Sur quelques résultats nouveaux relatifs au phénomène de Zeeman”, pp. 181-186) concerning the splitting of spectral lines into several components when the light-emitting region is subjected to strong magnetic fields. The splitting pattern became known as the anomalous Zeeman effect. Item #1033
CONDITION & DETAILS: Paris: Gauthier-Villars. Complete volume. Ex-libris bearing only an armorial bookplate deaccessioned stamp and a small stamp on half title and title pages. 4to (10.5 x 9 inches; 263 x 225mm). , 1963, . Solidly bound in black cloth over marbled paper boards, gilt-lettered at the spine. Minor scuffing at the edges. Bright and very clean throughout. Very good condition.