The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method

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PbS is a most important body for the analytical chemist yet no reliable data has been obtained for the solubility of PbS in water, the latter being exceedingly small. Having great amounts of RaD at our disposal corresponding to several curies of emanation we managed to determine the solubility by this very simple method" By 9 April, , Hevesy was ready to provide the general conclusion in writing to Rutherford:.

Two weeks after writing this letter April 24, , Hevesy and Paneth published their results as the texts of two talks given at a session of the Viennese Academy of Sciences. The texts were published in the Academy's journal. The first paper "On the experiments for separating radium-D from lead" detailed all the unsuccessful methods they had used, including distillation, adsorption, diffusion, and dialysis, about twenty differentmethods altogether. However, as the authors concluded, they "could not indicate any increase in the concentration of RaD" The next report in the journal describes the practical application of non-separability under the title of "On radioelements as indicators in analytical chemistry" This is the starting point of the practical usage of isotopes before isotopy had even been defined and coined The term "isotopes" appeared for the first time in December , in a letter Soddy sent to Nature The whole idea of the 'non-separability' of some elements originates from Soddy.

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Soddy's view was that the fact that RaD and lead have yet to be separated is not due to the lack of skill of the experimenters but to the principle of the 'non-separability' of those and other elements. I must confess I hoped for a long time that it might be possible to separate those bodies and would not accept Soddy's view on this matter" While collaborating with Paneth, Hevesy commuted between Budapest and Vienna, spending more time in the Austrian laboratory than his home in Budapest.

There he worked on some manuscripts and meditated on theoretical problems related to the structure of matter. He wrote a number of letters to his friends and colleagues all over Europe. In May, after a short stop in Germany, he returned to England, basically to Manchester, to work on some problems related to the disintegration series and a partly new subject, the separation of chemically non-separable elements by diffusion, based on the difference between their atomic weights. He stayed in England until the end of the summer.

In September , he participated in an important conference in Vienna, and then went to Budapest and played an active role in Hungarian scientific life. At the end of the year he rested in various resorts, including Meran and Tatra Lomnic. He spent the first month of in Budapest and Vienna, and returned to Britain in summer with short stopovers in Vienna, Prague, Berlin and Scheveningen, Holland. In Britain, besides Manchester, he spent some time in London, in Wales, and in Oxford with Moseley to learn the Roentgen diffraction method for use in investigating the chemistry of rare earth elements.

He was always on the move and did not belong to any one local community, making him a delocalized researcher. Wherever he went, he met colleagues to discuss theirs and others' latest results, and made new friends.

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He had extensive correspondence with many people, particularly Bohr, Rutherford, Paneth and Fajans, speaking about almost all important names in his field, which proves Hevesy's widespread networking activity. He did not seem to belong to any national community, but rather to the whole of European science. Budapest: The first applications of isotopes as indicators and tracers. In the s, despite his activity being so delocalized, Hevesy wanted to establish himself as a Hungarian scientist.

His habilitation, his Hungarian publications and his participation in the local scientific life served this goal. As Hevesy wrote to Fajans, he was highly satisfied with Putnoky's work Putnoky returned to Hungary in and soon became a professor ofinorganic chemistry at the Budapest Technical University. He was unjustly fired from his post as a result of the political screening carried out after World War II Besides giving courses at Budapest University, he built up a research laboratory that, as he reported to Bohr, "means a lot of trouble and work, especially here in Budapest, where everything takes such a long time and I am obliged to do everything on my own" He had two "research students", one working on diffusion problems of salts in water, the other on melted salts.

He seemed to have adapted to the Hungarian situation. However, Hevesy's mentality, his networking activity and his structural approach, did not fit in with the radioactivity research that followed the natural historical, analytical tradition in Hungary. Because Hevesy was not connected with Weszelszky's group that was working with a group of students at the II. Chemical Institute, he set up his laboratory at the newly opened III.

Chemical Institute. In , the university had decided to divide the I.

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Chemistry Institute into two parts, and to organize the III. Chemical Institute from a part of the I. The III. Institute was opened in The I. Institute specialized mostly in analytical chemistry, while the III.

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Institute specialized in teaching chemistry to students of medicine and pharmaceutics. He was one of the professors responsible for the evaluation of Hevesy's habilitation process. Therefore, without making any official noise, Hevesy was able to open his laboratory, and work with students without concerning himself with the research going on at the only official radioactivity institute in Hungary. Her next publication was co-authored with Hevesy.


This was a study on the speed of the solution of lead and bismuth ions in nitric acid. They showed that an exchange process could be detected by the radioactive indicator method between active lead chloride and inactive lead nitrate, and between the solid and liquid phases of the lead salts. They used ThB, a radioactive lead isotope, as an indicator This work was the first application in Hungary of the radioactive tracer method in exchange processes, which was the main focus of Hevesy's interest at that time.

After the war, like all Hungarians, Hevesy went through a turbulent period. The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy collapsed, revolutions and counter revolutions broke out, a communist regime ruled the country for a while in , anti-Semitism was on the rise, the economy could hardly work, and the Romanian army occupied a large part of the country.

Hevesy was first appointed as an extraordinary professor in , later, in , to full professor and head of the II. Institute of Physics, which was a transitional position before establishing a physical chemistry chair. His publications were written from somewhere new. Instead, he worked outside the university, at the Budapest veterinary school. She acknowledged Hevesy's help in her research into a typical Hevesy topic: the measurement of the diffusion constant of radium emanation in various solvents, such as ethanol, benzene and toluene This was the last study they made together.

After that, they went their separate ways. They also proved that an exchange process between the atoms of the same molecules could only be experienced if the molecules are in dissociated state This article extended the isotope indicator method to the organic world. The school had a laboratory that might have seemed appropriate to Hevesy for radioactivity research. A mixture of lead and ThB was placed at the bottom of a vertical tube. At the top, lead was placed at three times greater a height than that of the mixture. The whole column was heated to C o and left at this temperature for three days.

Then it was slowly cooled down and cut into pieces. The activities of the pieces were measured. From this, the speed and other features of self-diffusion could be calculated. In another investigation, lead was left at C o for a year, and the activity of RaD was measured along the column. In this way, they could observe how high the lead atoms rose by spontaneous diffusion from the bottom. These measurements can be considered a further step in the application of the indicator method, as isotopes were used as real tracers here This was Hevesy's last work in Hungary.

The experiments at the veterinary school lasted for five years until , when Hevesy left Hungary for good. Hevesy's group soon disappeared from Hungarian scientific life. After the communist revolution, in Hevesy was expelled from Budapest University and even lost his title of privat dozent and "venia legendi", the right to teach.

In , Niels Bohr offered Hevesy shelter and a research opportunity in Copenhagen. This was Hevesy's first escape for political, mostly anti-Semitic reasons, followed by two others later in his life Hevesy's collaborators met a similar fate. Her interest and activity in modern chemistry were not Hungarian products. She never really left the field of radioactivity, or nuclear science, in which she had made a good start as Hevesy's contributor in Budapest. He left Hungary in by invitation of Linus Pauling at Caltech, where he stayed until his death in His textbook-writing activity was highly appreciated.

He, and one of his students later, published on solubility problems investigated by radioactive indicators. He solved lead in mercury and the amalgam was in contact with lead nitrate containing ThB, a radioactive lead isotope, and measured the growth of the radioactivity of the amalgam At this point, the continuity of Hevesy's influence on the isotope research in Hungary came to an end. Nevertheless, radiochemistry lived on at the Radium Station.

The traditional, descriptive, natural historical data gathering was able to continue under Weszelszky's guidance until his retirement in , when the new head, Lajos Imre, modernized the Institute's research program. Gradually, the institute absorbed the new results in the field from international journals, after having missed the opportunity to learn from colleagues experimenting in the adjacent building at the university, and lecturing in the same scientific institutions. The traditional natural historical approach only geographically met the modern structural views in the field of radiochemical research in Budapest.

In a letter to Fajans, Hevesy complained that the leading Hungarian chemists, including some professors and Weszelszky, considered him a "charlatan" for his modern chemical views The local practice proved too stabile, closed and independent to easily absorb a research style imported from a wide region of Europe by a young delocalized researcher. Most of the open,receptive minds that collaborated with Hevesy left Hungary and became parts of the wider scientific community.

However, the natural historical approach proved fruitful to Hevesy's research, mainly in working out the method of radioactive indicators, the starting point of isotope applications. The Viennese Radium Institute represented the same data gathering approach, but its devices, personnel and mentality offered an incomparably better atmosphere and opportunity to Hevesy than its parallel in Budapest.

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That was how the descriptive, natural historical style that was so characteristic of Hungarian chemistry at that time met the British structural approach in Hevesy's delocalized early research into isotopes. Soddy, Frederick. The radio-elements and the periodic law. Chemical News. Kuhn, Thomas. Mathematical versus experimental traditions in the development of physical science. In: Kuhn, Thomas, ed. The essential tension. Chicago: Chicago University Press; , p.

Paper chromatography

Kuhn, n. Shapin, Steven. The scientific revolution. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press; , p. This activity had been analyzed in detail by Michel Foucault. He explained the methods of natural history. Foucault, Michel.

The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method
The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method
The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method
The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method
The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method
The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method
The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method
The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method The Separation of Isotopes by the Ionic Migration Method

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