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discoverer of radiation
Antoine-Henri Becquerel was born in Paris on December 15, 1852, the son of physicist Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel (whose specialty was solar radiation and phosphorescence) and grandson of physicist Antoine-César Becquerel (inventor of an electrolytic method for extracting metals from their ores). He received his primary education at the Lycee Louis-le-Grand, and then entered the École Polytechnique, where he studied from 1872 to 1874. In 1874 he entered the engineering program at the Ponts-et-Chaussées (Bridges and Highways School), from which he received his degree in 1877. He received his doctorate from the Faculty of Sciences in Paris in 1888, was appointed professor of applied physics in the Department of Natural History at the Paris Museum in 1892, and took over his father's position as professor physics at École Polytechnique in 1895.
Most of Becquerel's early work was concerned with plane-polarized light, the phenomenon of phosphorescence, and the absorption of light by crystals. In 1896, however, he began investigating the connection, if any, between X-rays (recently discovered by Wilhelm Roentgen) and naturally occurring phosphorescence. His principal experiment involved placing uranium salts near a photographic plate covered with opaque paper; when the paper was removed the plate was markedly fogged. He found this phenomenon to be common to all the uranium salts he studied, and subsequently concluded that the plate was being exposed to radiation being emitted by the uranium atom. He presented his experiments and results to the French Academy of Science in two short papers, one on February 24 and the other on March 2, 1896. For his work in discovering radiation, Becquerel shared the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics with two other pioneers in the field, Pierre and Marie Curie.
Antoine-Henri Becquerel died at Le Croisic on August 25, 1908.
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