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JAMA 100 Years Ago
May 14, 2003


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2003;289(18):2436. doi:10.1001/jama.289.18.2436

Though only discovered in 1898, the new metal, radium, bids fair to set the physical-chemical world agog. The prospect of securing energy for nothing has stimulated the imagination of a certain number of human beings from time immemorial, but the nearest approach to the mythical "perpetual motion" thus far made would seem to be that presented by the phenomena manifested by radium and its salts. It was startling enough to be told that radium can give out light continuously without exciting cause; that it can emit rays, some of which are identical with cathode rays, thus representing showers of electrons, while other rays are very penetrating and can pass through solids as do x-rays, and still others which are easily absorbed; that it can act on sensitized plates; that it has the capacity to cause air to conduct electricity; that its rays can kill the Bacillus prodigiosus; and that an emanation from it that behaves like a gas, can make bodies submitted to its influence temporarily active like itself.

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