An intensely radioactive metallic element found (combined) in minute quantities in pitchblende, and various other uranium minerals. Symbol, Ra; atomic weight, 226.4. Radium was discovered by M. and Mme. Curie, of Paris, who in 1902 separated compounds of it by a tedious process from pitchblende. Its compounds color flames carmine and give a characteristic spectrum. It resembles barium chemically. Radium preparations are remarkable for maintaining themselves at a higher temperature than their surroundings, and for their radiations, which are of three kinds: alpha rays, beta rays, and gamma rays (see these terms). By reason of these rays they ionize gases, affect photographic plates, cause sores on the skin, and produce many other striking effects. Their degree of activity depends on the proportion of radium present, but not on its state of chemical combination or on external conditions.The radioactivity of radium is therefore an atomic property, and is explained as result from a disintegration of the atom. This breaking up occurs in at least seven stages; the successive main products have been studied and are called
- A rare, brilliant white, luminescent, highly radioactive metallic element found in very small amounts in uranium ores, having 13 isotopes with mass numbers between 213 and 230, of which radium 226 with a half-life of 1,622 years is the most common. It is used in cancer radiotherapy, as a neutron source for some research purposes, and as a constituent of luminescent paints. Atomic number 88; melting point 700°C; boiling point 1,737°C; valence 2. See Table at element.