In this talk Dr Todd will give an outline of the history of the Radium Committee of the Royal Society, and give an account of the use to which its radium was put over the first half of the20th century, with some focus of local interest at Liverpool. Founded in 1903, the status of the committee was enhanced in 1904 when a donation of £1000 was made to establish a radium research fund.
Two years later the fund was used to purchase 500 kg of pitchblende residues from the Austrian government. The French chemist Armet de Lisle was contracted to carry out the first stage of extraction, resulting in the delivery of 412 g of barium–radium chloride to the society in late 1906. The process of purification by fractional crystallisation was carried out at the Government Laboratory during 1907 by the government analyst T E Thorpe, with an estimated yield of 70 mg of radium chloride. The radium was then lent out over the next half century successively to James Dewar, J J Thomson, the 4th Lord Rayleigh, Frederick Lindemann, James Chadwick, G P Thomson and Samuel Devons, in whose hands it was last recorded in 1953. The fate of the society’s radium remains an enigma.