Radioactivity is good for you. That’s what many people believed, back when exciting glow-in-the-dark elements captured the public attention and cathode rays were all the rage. Half Lives is a history of one element in particular, radium, discovered and isolated by the Curies and which was popularly used in medicine, therapy, beauty treatments and other applications a hundred years ago.
The book explores the history of radium and related issues such as ‘quack medicine,’ the British spa towns, uranium mining and the scientists who became martyrs to their investigations before the deadly effects of radiation were known. The science is presented in an easily understood way, while the writing style is readable with a sense of humour. The content wasn’t always very interesting to me but if I’d been researching the history of radium (until the 1950s or so) and wanted some details to use, then this book would be perfect.
Footnotes and references are included. There is also an image section with some fascinating examples of radium-inspired products and photos of the Curies.
Thank you to Icon Books via NetGalley. Half Lives will be published on 2nd July.