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Rutherford and Boltwood
Letters on Radioactivity

Lawrence Badash

Yale University Press 1969
ISBN None
378 pages. Hard Cover.
11 black/white photos, some figures embedded in the text.

Purchasing Details.
Out of Print

My Comments on This Book
Lawrence Badash is the top historian of the early days of radioactivity. In his early days he obtained various research fellowships to study the Rutherford to Boltwood letters (Yale University Library) and the Boltwood to Rutherford letters (Cambridge University Library).

Bertrum Boltwood is one of the near forgotten heroes of the pioneering days of radioactivity. Boltwood was an analytical and physical chemist, at Yale and in private practice, who specialised in analysis of ores containing rare earths, and with uranium and thorium which are commonly associated with rare earth minerals.

The book covers from 1904 until 1927, when Boltwood regretably committed suicide. This collaboration was that of equals, two men with great respect for each other's work and who enjoyed each others company whenever they could.  Boltwood, a year older than Rutherford, did meticulous work in separating the radioactive elements from ores and each other. He made an impressive contribution to the chemical processes needed, in identifying "missing" elements in decay series, in supplying Rutherford with various separated and purified radioactive samples and in dating the age of minerals. Being good friends, they exchanged gossip and frank discussions about other workers in the field. After Rutherford returned to England, Boltwood often spent the summers in Rutherford's lab so they had a great pool of mutual friends to keep each other in touch with.

The book transcribes all of the correspondence thus making it widely available. It is a most valuable resource, for which historians of science should be immensely grateful to Larry Badash.

Errors Noted.
Just two transcription typos on p74, where Rutherford's address in New Zealand should be Pungarehu, Taranaki.

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Contents

Contents

vii

Preface

ix

Notes on Style

xv

Lists of Contractions and Abbreviations

xix

Introduction

1

The Correspondence

27

Appendix: The Radioactive Decay Series

359

Index

363

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