[Sale, Rhoda] Rutherford, Ernest

Radioactive Substances and Their Radiations

  • First edition, first impression of this important volume on radioactivity by Ernest Rutherford, the discoverer of the structure of the atom. With the ownership signature of the female physicist and radiation researcher Rhoda Sale, and with an offprint of her most important publication "Notes on X-Ray Scattering and on J Radiation" (1923) and one page (split in half) of mimeographed and manuscript laboratory notes loosely inserted.

    Rutherford's first book on radioactivity had been published in 1904, and the intervening years saw such a dramatic expansion of knowledge in the field that this volume, "an accurate and concise account of the whole subject as it stands to-day" is "an entirely new work" (introduction), retaining only a few pages from the earlier text. Most notably, this volume includes the first book-published description of the Geiger-Marsden (gold-foil) experiment experiment, by which Rutherford conclusively proved that the structure of the atom was a tiny nucleus surrounded by large areas of empty space within the orbits of the electrons.

    The previous owner of this copy was the British physicist Rhoda Sale (nee Buchanan), who graduated with an MA from the University of Edinburgh in 1918, was a staff member at the school, and was also elected to the Edinburgh Mathematical Society in the same year. From 1913 she studied radiation with Nobel Prize-winner Charles Glover Barkla, who made significant advancements in understanding x-ray scattering and the transmission of x-rays through matter. Together they sought to clarify the relationship between wavelength and scattering for x-rays and also searched unsuccessfully for a new type of characteristic x radiation (Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science).

    Sale has inscribed this copy with her maiden name, "Rhoda R. C. Buchanan, June 1918". Included is her rare offprint "Notes on X-Ray Scattering and J Radiation", which was published in the Philosophical Magazine in 1923. On the verso of the first leaf she has corrected "Miss Rhoda Sale" to "Mrs Sale" in pencil. Also loosely inserted are two halves of a mimeographed page giving methods for detecting metallic radicals. Sale has made numerous notes in ink on these leaves based on her practical experience in the laboratory, and the leaves are also stained and burned at the edges, very much appearing to have been consulted and annotated in the course of experimentation. The light wear and discolouration affecting the binding of the book is also suggestive of use as a reference work in the lab. A wonderfully evocative record of a near-forgotten female scientist.

  • Cambridge: at the University Press, 1913. Octavo. Original green cloth, titles to spine gilt, 3 plates, diagrams throughout. Spine rolled, a little rubbing and some minor scratches and bumps to cloth, small discoloured area to lower board, light spotting to edges of textblock and to early and late leaves, contents faintly toned. A very good copy, the wear to the binding suggestive of use in the laboratory by its former owner.

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