Luis A. Campos, Radium and the secret of life

University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2015, v + 378 pp, $55.00 ($35.00 paperpack)
  • Laurel Waycott
Book Review

Radium and the Secret of Lifeexamines the association between radium—the naturally radioactive eighty-eighth element of the periodic table—and the life sciences, covering the period between radium’s naming in 1898 and the recognition of DNA in 1953. Built around several in-depth case studies concerning the use of radium in experimental systems in the life sciences, Campos illuminates the previously unexplored role that radium played in early twentieth century genetic research, particularly in redefining the concept of ‘mutation’. More than a pre-history of radiobiology, Campos reveals how radioactivity, a mysterious phenomenon exemplified by the shockingly new substance of radium, came to be understood through analogy to living systems, despite the deep disciplinary divides between physics and biology in the period. Furthermore, radium fed back into the study of life by becoming a vital research tool in experimental biological laboratories. The language we use to describe radioactive...

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Yale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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