Nuclear energy

Antoine-henri Becquerel, Biography of the Discoverer of Radioactivity

Antoine-Henri Becquerel, biography of the discoverer of radioactivity

Antoine-Henri Becquerel was a French physicist (Paris, 1852 - Le Croisic, 1908). Becquerel shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in physics with the Curie couple (Pierre Curie and Marie Curie) for their research on fluorescence and the discovery of the phenomenon of radioactivity.

Antoine-Henri Becquerel was born in Paris into a wealthy family that produced four generations of physicists: the grandfather (Antoine César Becquerel), the father (Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel) and the son (Jean Becquerel).

Henri Becquerel's studies began at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand school in Paris. Later he studied engineering at the École Polytechnique and the École des Ponts et Chaussées. 

In 1874, Henri married Lucie Zoé Marie Jamin, who died giving birth to their son, Jean. 

In 1875 he entered the department of bridges and highways, and became chief engineer in 1894. 

In 1890 he remarried Louise Désirée Lorieux.

In 1892 he succeeded his father in the chair of the Museum of Natural History, and in 1895 he became a professor at the Polytechnic School.

Henri Becquerel's death occurred on August 25, 1908, in Le Croisic, France. His death was probably caused by handling radioactive materials.

What Was Becquerel's Most Important Discovery?

Around the year 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered radioactivity naturally.

Henri Becquerel carried out various experiments that led him to discover by chance that a uranium compound veiled photographic plates wrapped in black paper. In that year, Henri Becquerel was conducting experiments with uranium salts.

On one occasion, he packed a rock fragment containing uranium on black paper in a closet with some photographic plates. After some time developing the tiles, he noticed that the stones had been printed very accurately.

In this way, Becquerel deduced that this phenomenon was characteristic of the uranium atom, thus discovering natural radioactivity.

After several experiments, he concluded that natural radioactivity was the property of some substances, such as uranium, radium, and polonium to emit radiation without any external cause.

Henri Becquerel's Professional Career

Becquerel held the chair of physics at the National Museum of Natural History in 1892. Later, in 1894, Henri Becquerel became chief engineer in the Department of Bridges and Roads before beginning his first experiments.

Becquerel began to publish works related to the plane polarization of light, the phenomenon of phosphorescence and the absorption of light by crystals. Initially, Becquerel also studied the Earth's magnetic fields .


Published: April 17, 2013
Last review: November 8, 2021