JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
Radium. It was for some short period of time a magnificent and harmless thing, soemthing with a life of its own, sort of, in the way that people used to think of electricity.
This is a detail for an advertisement for radium salts, found in the December, 1903 issue of Le Radium. At this point, just five years after the Curies discovered it and quick-published (in five days) their results in the Comptes Rendus..., the massive biochemical effects of human/radium interaction was not understood. And so the ads for firms like Armet de Lisle, which was loudly selling Sels de Radium (and other radioactive substances like uranium salt and uranium phosphate) without any real knowledge of the adverse health effects of its products. (The Curies and Becquerel had noticed ulcertating reactions to their skin when it was left in contact to radium, and "radium dementia" had been reported beginning about 1900, but it would take quite some time for this radioactive material to be understood as lethal products.)
Radium was used (in very small dosages) for the illuminating of instrument panels and dials (in, say, aircraft) and wrist watch faces into the 1960, though the major health factors ground themselves out in the worker who would come into contact with the radium itself.
Of course there were other uses for radium as a cure-all, which would have been a completely different story:
[which I wrote about here in "Radium Dance"]