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Henri Becquerel - Physics - 1903

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Henri Becquerel - Physics - 1903

Henri Becquerel

Henri Becquerel was a professor of physics and an experimenter of exception. His work was at the beginning of nuclear physics and lead to the discovery of natural radioactivity.

He was a student of the Ecole Polytechnique and became an Engineer of Ponts et Chaussées. Closely associated with the work of his father, Edmond Becquerel, he studied with him the phenomenon of magnetic polarization rotation and determined its laws. He then became interested in the phosphorescence and the absorption of light by crystalline solids. He received the La Caze Prize from the Academy of Sciences in 1883. 
In 1888, he received his PhD in physical sciences and defended his thesis entitled "Research on the absorption of light."
He succeeded his father as a professor of Physics at the National Museum of Natural History in 1892 and became Professor of Physics at the Ecole Polytechnique in 1895. He worked his orientation towards the study of luminescence phenomena.
In 1896, he brought to light the radioactivity of uranium.
Henri Becquerel received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 ‘in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by his discovery of spontaneous radioactivity’. He shared it with Pierre and Marie Curie. Continuing his work in collaboration with them, he contributed to the discovery of alpha and beta rays.
He died in 1908. A tribute was paid to him on the fiftieth anniversary and the centenary centenary of the discovery of radioactivity.

In 1975, the General Conference of Weights and Measures decided to honor Henri Becquerel in adopting the name "becquerel, symbol Bq, for the SI unit of activity of a radioactive substance. (1 Bq is 1 disintegration per second).


Henri Becquerel was elevated to the rank of Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1900.
He was a member of foreign academies including the Reale Accademia dei Lincei, the Königlische Preusssische Akademie der Wissenschaften and the Royal Society of London.
He received prizes, including the Rumford Medal of the Royal Society in 1900 and the Barnard Medal (United States) in 1905.