Biomedical Aspects of Plutonium (Discovery, Development, Projections)

  • J. N. Stannard
Part of the Handbuch der experimentellen Pharmakologie / Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 36)

Abstract

There is probably no single element in the periodic table with a comparable saga of discovery, development, manufacture and use covering a span of only one generation. Uranium and its isotopes along with its daughter products such as radium and radon, have been on the scene for decades. Uranium was known in nature and used in industry long before its possession of radioactivity was known or became of interest and importance. By contrast plutonium was only a theoretical possibility in the late thirties in the minds of Meitner, Bohr, Irene Jouet-Curie and workers at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University until Seaborg and his colleagues isolated a tracer quantity of element 23894 on the night of February 23, 1941, and 0.5 microgram of 23994 on March 28 of the same year. (The name “plutonium” was not assigned until the following year.) The fact that this element could undergo fission with thermal neutrons was found essentially simultaneously with its discovery and thus began the tremendous effort to produce it in quantity for military purposes. This story is so familiar that nothing further need be added here except to point out that kilogram quantities were available by the summer of 1946 and we are now talking of thousands of kilograms.

Keywords

Toxicity Dioxide Europe Uranium Radium 

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© Springer-Verlag/Berlin Heidelberg 1973

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  • J. N. Stannard

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