U – Uranium – Not that sort of photo bomb

Uranium (U – Atomic number 92) has photography in its history when Henri Becquerel had left a sample of Uranium, in his Paris lab in 1896, on top of a photographic plate.  On development the plate appeared to have been exposed to something – and Henri deduced that some invisible rays were being given off – and radioactivity was discovered.  The element had been first isolated, also in Paris, by Eugène Peligot 55 years earlier.  In thinking of a photo for my Uranium post I thought back to several visits, when I was much younger, to several nuclear power stations in the UK.  I had been fascinated by radiation and was fortunate to have visits to several plants both by arrangement from college – but also on family holidays.  No photos though.  I did however remember a photo with a Uranium connection – one I took at the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust (FAST) – of a schematic of WE177 nuclear weapon attached to a replica of the last deployed air-launched nuclear bomb by the UK.  I also remembered the photography conditions at FAST – were they were happy for people to take photos for personal use.  And to be honest, my photo taken on a wet day wasn’t the best…  However the schematic bore a copyright notice from Brian Burnell, and I was fortunate enough not only to find more information on Brian (the power of Bing!) – but to get permission to use his schematic in place of my poor photo.  Thanks to Brian!

Sectional of a WE177
Sectional of a WE177

Brian has also captured background on this fascinating and chilling time in world history on his web site .  Growing up through the 60’s and 70’s it is interesting reading Brian’s articles.  Always know where your protractor is!

I’m a big fan of the potential for nuclear energy – and some countries have embraced and really succeeded with the technology – France for example – but there is the potential for disaster too.  And we can never really know where we might be if nuclear weapons hadn’t been invented – but the genie is out of the bottle.

On a lighter note, much lighter (and the pun is there for those who want it) – next up is Argon – Atomic number 18.