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There appears to be a distinct lack of agreement in the physics community on what exactly Marie Curie did for atomic theory.

Many journals state that Curie was responsible for shifting scientific opinion from the idea that the atom was solid and indivisible to an understanding of subatomic particles. However, JJ Thompson had already discovered the electron prior to Curie's work, and Rutherford proved the nature of atomic structure - so what did Marie Curie really do for atomic theory?

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1 Answer 1

From: NobelPrize.org

"Her continued systematic studies of the various chemical compounds gave the surprising result that the strength of the radiation did not depend on the compound that was being studied. It depended only on the amount of uranium or thorium. Chemical compounds of the same element generally have very different chemical and physical properties: one uranium compound is a dark powder, another is a transparent yellow crystal, but what was decisive for the radiation they gave off was only the amount of uranium they contained. Marie drew the conclusion that the ability to radiate did not depend on the arrangement of the atoms in a molecule, it must be linked to the interior of the atom itself.

This discovery was absolutely revolutionary. From a conceptual point of view it is her most important contribution to the development of physics. "

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Thankyou - so now I'm sure you can see what my problem is! The source you quote is one that has confused me most. You will notice that, in fact, what you have put in bold is extremely vague. It states that this was 'absolutely revolutionary' and conceptually important - but what is it she actually discovered? That the ability to radiate did not depend on the arrangement of the atoms itself? If so, why was that revolutionary? JJ Thompson had already discovered the electron, so she didn't discover subatomic particles. How did she contribute to atomic theory with that observation? –  MathsStudent Aug 4 '11 at 21:03
    
Can you offer any insight? :) –  MathsStudent Aug 6 '11 at 10:28
    
Why don't you tell me what you think the statement "but what was decisive for the radiation they gave off was only the amount of uranium they contained. Marie drew the conclusion that the ability to radiate did not depend on the arrangement of the atoms in a molecule, it must be linked to the interior of the atom itself." means, and we'll go from there. –  Jen Aug 6 '11 at 18:29
    
Well I assume it refers to the existance of smaller subatomic particles? Neutrons? –  MathsStudent Aug 14 '11 at 0:24
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You keep talking of atomic theory. It was the beginning of the nuclear model theory, that the nucleus' structure could radiate energy. Atomic is the x-rays coming from orbital transitions. –  anna v Mar 8 '13 at 16:02

protected by Qmechanic Nov 11 '13 at 0:22

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