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Henri Becquerel
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Scientist
    (December 15, 1852-August 25, 1908)
    Born in Paris, France
    Birth name was Antoine Henri Becquerel
    Physicist
    Discovered radioactivity
    Co-recipient (with Pierre and Marie Curie) of the Nobel Prize in Physics (1903)
    He discovered radioactivity by accident: When overcast skies kept him from conducting his planned experiments with phosphorescent uranium salts, he stored the salts in a drawer with photographic plates. When he developed the plates, he found the silhouette of the uranium crystals on the photograph.
    Two years after discovering radioactivity, he stopped publishing papers about it, since it seemed to be associated only with uranium and was less useful than x-rays.
    He resumed investigating radiation only after Gerhard Schmidt discovered it was also produced by thorium and after the Curies discovered the new radioactive elements radium and polonium.
    Like many other pioneers in studying radioactivity, he took few safety precautions, and developed severe radiation burns on his skin.
    He demonstrated that the radiation produced by uranium differed from x-rays, since it could be deflected by magnetic and electric fields.
    Marie Curie was one of his doctoral students.
    He received the Legion of Honor (1900).
    A paper he published describing a burn he received from a sample of radium carried in his pocket inspired physicians to investigate medical uses of radiation.
    He was the namesake for an asteroid, craters on the Moon and Mars, and the unit of radioactivity in the international system.

Credit: C. Fishel


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