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Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium

Lucy Jane Santos Lucy Jane Santos

$34.99

Hardback

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Icon Books
18 August 2020
Mathematics & Sciences; Popular science
The discovery of radium in the late 19th century prompted a flurry of experiments to scope the limits of its potential applications.

Half Lives tells the fascinating, curious, sometimes macabre story of the element through its ascendance as a desirable item - a present for a queen, a prize in a treasure hunt, a glow-in-the-dark dance costume, a boon to the housewife, and an ingredient in a startling host of consumer products - to its role as a cure-all in everyday 20th-century life.

Finally, it details the gradual downfall and discredit of the radium industry through the eyes of the people who bought, sold and eventually came to fear it.

Half Lives is an enjoyable journey into the odd areas where science and consumerism meet, telling the tale of the entrepreneurs and consumers in radium's history who have until now been considered quacks, or fools, or both.
By:   Lucy Jane Santos, Lucy Jane Santos
Imprint:   Icon Books
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 134mm, 
ISBN:   9781785786075
ISBN 10:   1785786075
Pages:   320
Publication Date:   18 August 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Lucy is an expert in the history of twentieth-century leisure, health, and beauty with a particular interest - some might say obsession - in the cultural history of radioactivity. She is now the Executive Secretary of the British Society for the History of Science and the Administrator for the Historical Writers' Association. In the past, she has also worked as Secretary of the Authors' Club and the Director of the Crime Writers' Association. Lucy has worked for the Gourmet Society, where she was editor, and at The International Wine and Food Society. This is her first book.

Reviews for Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium

'With verve and vivacity, Lucy Jane Santos conducts her readers on a unique tour of the twentieth century's most significant scientific discovery. Before the R-word threatened destruction, it offered hope for the future -- teeth would glow white, cocktails would shine in the dark and cancer would be vanquished. This evocative account puts people and their emotions centre-stage of science's past.' -- Dr Patricia Fara 'There was a time when radioactivity seemed to promise the future. It was the stuff that twentieth-century dreams were made of, before those dreams turned sour. This marvellous book explores the ways radioactivity stood for a better future, worked its way into money-making schemes of all kinds and offered hope to saints and charlatans. By doing all that - and doing it so well - it also offers a cautionary tale about the dangers of putting too much faith in simple technological solutions to all our problems.' -- Iwan Rhys Morus In Half Lives, Lucy Santos transports us 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 the pursuit of healthy gums. Santos unpicks fact from fiction and exhibits a masterful grasp of a complex area of science history that is so often mistold. Half Lives is a delightfully disturbing book that reminds us all of the age-old Latin maxim, 'caveat emptor.' -- Dr Lindsey Fitzharris, bestselling author of The Butchering Art 'Half Lives shines a light on the shocking history of the world's toxic love affair with a deadly substance, radium. Unnerving, fascinating, informative and truly frightening.' -- Hallie Rubenhold, author of The Five


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