I’ve broken down the history of Radium into three parts: Wonder, Snake Oil, and Relic. When Radium was first discovered by the Curies it was a Wonder and many expected it’s medical and luminescent qualities to change the world. During the 1920s and 1930s the element was being used commercially as Snake Oil. Radium waters were sold as a cure-all and glowing clocks and cosmetics were popular products. But eventually the harmful, cell-destroying qualities of Radium were realized and it became a Relic, with it’s only modern use being a treatment for patients with bone metastases from prostate cancer. Radium never achieved the greatness that scientists like the Curies might have hoped for.


I wanted to show Radium’s story, and how the expectations of greatness didn’t come to be, but that knowledge still came out of it. Radium served its purpose, even if that purpose was far below the magic that was expected of it.

UNCSA High School

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Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art

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