The Window of Opportunity: Logic and Chance in Becquerel's Discovery of Radioactivity
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- Kipnis, N. Phys. perspect. (2000) 2: 63. doi:10.1007/s000160050037
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The discovery of radioactivity by Henri Becquerel is frequently called serendipitous, because on March 1, 1896, he developed “unexposed” photographic plates, which he had kept near a uranium salt, and found dark images on them. I show that Becquerel's discovery was a process in which, even in its early stage in 1896, chance entered in a number of episodes, and that his discovery resulted from a complex interaction of logic and chance.