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Henri Becquerel was a French physicist who investigated uranium and other substances which led to his discovery of radioactivity. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903, which he shared with physicists Pierre and Marie Curie.
See the fact file below for more information on the Henri Becquerel or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Henri Becquerel worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE & FAMILY
- Antoine Henri Becquerel was born on December 15, 1852, in Paris, France.
- He was born into an affluent family of physicists, including his father Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel. His grandfather, Antoine César Becquerel, was also a physicist.
- Henri first attended a prep school in Paris named the Lycée Louis-le-Grand school.
- He entered the École Polytechnique and the École des Ponts et Chaussées to study engineering.
- In 1874, Henri married Lucie Zoé Marie Jamin and had a son (Jean) with her.
- His son also became a physicist.
- In 1890, he married Louise Désirée Lorieux.
- In 1876, he worked as an assistant teacher at the École Polytechnique.
- He also worked as assistant naturalist to his father at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle.
- In 1892, Becquerel followed the footsteps of his father and became the physics chair at the museum upon his father’s death.
- In 1894, Becquerel worked as the chief engineer in the Department of Bridges and Highways.
FIRST SCIENTIFIC STUDIES
- At the time, the most investigated areas of science were magnetism, electricity, and optics.
- Becquerel’s first studies were about the rotation of plane-polarized light by magnetic fields.
- Henri also began investigating infrared radiation, particularly the spectra of different phosphorescent crystals under infrared.
- In line with the previous work of his father, he researched how emission of phosphorescence in some uranium compounds affected absorption of light.
- Becquerel became regarded as an expert on phosphorescent materials and uranium compounds.
- He was also exceptionally skilled in the laboratory.
- His skill set and proficiency in such fields led him to discover radioactivity.
- He was a prominent physicist by 1896.
- Since 1889, he was a member of the Académie des Sciences.
- Wilhelm Röntgen discovered X-rays in 1895. Becquerel used X-rays in making a fluorescent effect when struck by cathode beams.
- He began to investigate the possible relationship of visible light and the “invisible” radiation he observed.
- He theorized that luminescent materials would yield X-rays.
- In his experimentation, he put phosphorescent crystals on a photographic plate wrapped in opaque paper so that the emulsion could only be reached by a penetrating radiation.
- He placed his setup under sunlight so as to excite the crystals.
- The photographic plate showed silhouettes of the mineral samples.
- Becquerel submitted this discovery to the Académie des Sciences on February 24, 1896.
- The results of the experiment confirmed his theory that something was emitted by the luminescent material.
- However, he observed that the uranium substances emitted radiation even though they were not made to emit light anymore.
- This observation led to his next assumption that there was a form of invisible phosphorescence that is long lasting.
- He interpreted it as something of a metallic phosphorescence.
- It was in 1896 when Becquerel published seven papers on radioactivity, then two more papers in 1897.
- Later on, it was Marie Curie who named the phenomenon “radioactivity.”
- Further studies, such as Pierre and Marie Curie’s discovery of polonium and radium, made Becquerel’s discovery even more significant.
MORE SCIENTIFIC CONTRIBUTIONS
- Becquerel’s scientific discoveries and research did not stop with radioactivity.
- In his research from 1899 to 1900, Becquerel was able to study the properties and measure the deflection of beta particles.
- Beta particles are radiation components in electrical and magnetic fields.
- Becquerel revealed that the beta particle was the same as the electron which was discovered by Joseph John Thomson.
- Becquerel also discovered that uranium is able to regain the radioactivity that it lost while the substance in it loses its radiating ability.
- This discovery (coupled with Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy’s similar discovery in thorium) was the foundation of the transformation theory of radioactivity.
- The transformation theory of radioactivity explains the subatomic chemical change in which one element spontaneously transforms into another.
- Becquerel’s final accomplishment was about the physiological effect of the radiation.
- In 1901, he reported the burn caused in his pocket by the active sample of radium discovered by the Curies.
- This effect urged physicians to study the occurrence which contributed to medicine.
- The SI unit for radioactivity is named after him, the becquerel (Bq).
- Becquerel was awarded the Rumford Medal in 1900 for his discovery of the radioactivity.
- The Academy of Sciences elected him president and permanent secretary.
- Becquerel was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 which he shared with physicists Pierre and Marie Curie.
- A crater on the moon and a crater on Mars are named after him.
Henri Becquerel Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Henri Becquerel across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Henri Becquerel worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Henri Becquerel who was a French physicist who investigated uranium and other substances which led to his discovery of radioactivity. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903, which he shared with physicists Pierre and Marie Curie.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Henri Becquerel Facts
- Becquerel’s Biography
- Sequence of Discoveries
- Word Association
- Uranium Acrostics
- Becquerel’s Ideas
- Pioneers of Radioactivity
- Pioneering Scientists
- I’m A Pioneer
- Contribution Collage
- In Honor of Henri
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