Shaped glas tube used in the discovery of artificial radioactivity, 1930s.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
This tube was used by Irene Joliot-Curie (1897-1956), daughter of Marie Curie (1867-1934), and her husband Frederic Joliot (1900-1958) during their experiments on artificial radioactivity. In late 1933 they made the first artificial radioelement by bombarding aluminium with alpha particles. After the bombardment had stopped, they noticed that the aluminium continued to emit positrons. This led them to conclude, correctly, that they had produced a new radioisotope of phosphorus, thus discovering artificial radioactivity. For this they were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1935.