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1 Elizabeth Rona (Róna Erzsébet) The Polonium Woman Radnóti Katalin Eötvös Loránd Univesity

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1 1 Elizabeth Rona (Róna Erzsébet) The Polonium Woman Radnóti Katalin Eötvös Loránd Univesity

2 2 Synopsis „ Main characters ” : Róna Erzsébet Francis Tangl, George Hevesy, Otto Hahn, Stefan Meyer, Hans Pettersson, Ellen Gleditsch, Irnene Curie……. The origins in Hungary Berlin, Wien, Paris, Oslo, USA

3 Bibliography Palló Gábor (1992): Radioaktivitás és a kémiai atomelmélet. Akadémiai Kiadó. Budapest Róna Erzsébet doktori értekezése (1912): A bróm és az egyértékű aliphás alkoholok. Budapest. 32 oldal Róna, E. (1914a): Az urán átalakulásairól, Mathematikai és Természettudományi Értesítő, 32, 350. Róna, E.(1914b): Az urán átalakulásairól, Magyar Chemiai Folyóirat. 5, 42. Róna, E. (1917) A rádium-emanáczió diffúzióállandója és atomátmérője, Magyar Chemiai Folyóirat, 23, 156. Rona, Elizabeth (1978): How it Came About. Radioactivity, Nuclear Physics, Atomic Energy. Oak Ridge Associated Universities. Maria Rentetzi (2007): Trafficking Materials and Gendered Experimental Practices published by Columbia University Press 3

4 Elizabeth Rona (1890. Budapest -1981. Oak Ridge) She was born in Budapest in 1890. At the age of 21 Elizabeth Rona received her Ph.D in organic chemistry, from the University of Budapest (1912). Now called Eötvös Loránd University. It consists only 32 pages. It can be found in the library of ELTE. 4

5 For postdoctoral training she went to Karlsruhe to study under Kasimir Fajans, who had just announced his discovery of „pliades” (the term was changed to „isotopes” by F. Soddy a year later). 5

6 6 At this time George Hevesy also returned to Budapest from Vienna, where he and Fritz Paneth had just finished reporting their studies of the diffusion of lead solutions. They had used ThB (thorium-B ), which we now call Pb-2l2. Thus a radioactive „isotope” has been an „indicator” in 1913. Hevesy asked Elizabeth to check a small detail in a current radiochemical argument. G. N. Antonoff in Rutherford's Manchester laboratory had discovered UY, now termed Th-231, but F. Soddy and A. Flecks in Glasgow could not confirm.

7 The transformations of Uranium 1914. Elizabeth followed Hevesy's suggestion and verified the existence of UY. UI  UX I  UX II  UII In today’s nomenclature it would be written as: Hungarian Sciences Academy She was only 24 years old. “On this sequence it is unusual, that both of the branches are a result of  transformation, we didn’t see anything like this before and we thought these branches can only be that some of the atoms emit  and others emit β rays.”(Rona 1914) 7

8 8 Only after the isotope uranium-235 had been discovered (1935) and established as the first element of a new series (the actinoid series) was UY found to be an isotope of thorium: thorium-231, daughter of uranium-235 and parent of protactinium 231. UXUY

9 9 Radioactive tracing was the discovery of four scientists. One of them was Elizabeth Rona. One interesting research project was the determination of the diffusion constant of radon in water and its atomic radius in 1917. Eva Ramstead, a Swedish scientist, verified her results in Stockholm. They met many years letter.

10 Francis Tangl, a well-know biochemist and physiologist at the University of Budapest offerd her a new job. He needed a scientist who could set up courses to complement the chemical training of his graduate and postgraduate students. 10

11 The political situation in Hungary changed suddenly and dramatically. Otto Hahn offered her a fellowship to work in their radioactivity department in the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin-Dahlem. Elizabeth Rona joined Otto Hahn's staff in Berlin to separate ionium (now Th-230) from uranium ores. 11

12 Stefan Meyer offered her a position at the Radium Institute in Vienna. The atmosphere at the institute was most pleasant. They were all members of one family. The almanac of the Austrian Academy of Sciences from 1919 to 1934 serves there were 113 scientists, 43 women and 70 men, who conducted research at the institute. "This is an ideal institute for work.„(Rona 1978) 12

13 13 Kara-Michailova, Berta Karlik, Rona and ? Stefan Meyer

14 Elizabeth Rona at the Radium Institute, c 1925. and later Source: Agnes Rodhe, personal archive. 14

15 Hans Pettersson "The contamination of the Radium Institute was too high to permit small amounts of radium to be determined. The needed equipment was moved to the oceanographic station in Bornö on Gullmarfjord, in south Sweden. Here, I spent many summer months, staying sometimes well into the fall." (Rona) 15

16 Artificial radioactivity Rona joined the staff of the Curie Institute in Paris to learn polonium separation from Irene Curie. She came to Paris in 1928., " I had the opportunity to hear a first-hand report about this fundamental discovery which was to have such far-reaching consequences for different branches of science. The talk was given by Irene Joliot-Curie." (Rona) During their visit, Rona and Karlik entertained the couple in Vienna. The Joliot-Curies invited Rona to Paris and work with them on problems of artificial radioactivity, she gladly accepted. 16

17 Rona left the Radium Institute for Budapest on April 7, 1938. It was not only the rise of the Nazis within the institute that threatened Rona, but her everyday life became troublesome as well. At the age of 48 and after 13 years of work at the Radium Institute, Rona was looking for a new job (and a new home). 17

18 Her close friend Ellen Gleditsch offered her an another temporary solution. She invited Rona to spend a year in Oslo. Ellen Gleditsch (1879–1968) shortly after her appointment as professor in 1929. Reprinted by permission of Nils Petter Gleditsch. 18

19 After one last visit to Vienna in January 1941, Rona fled to the United States. She was able to obtain her first position at Trinity College, a Catholic College for women in Washington, D.C., as a chemistry teacher. 19

20 A year later, she was invited to work for the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), using her expertise in preparing polonium for work related to the war effort. She was able to forge a new career in the United States. In 1950 she joined the teaching staff of a new school at the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies. In 1965, after fifteen years, she retired, but then spent another decade on the staff of the Institute of Marine Sciences of the University of Miami, as a professor of chemistry. Elizabeth Rona returned to Oak Ridge where she wrote about her career. The 75-page booklet printed in 1978 was a short history of the radioactive tracer method. 20

21 Copyright 1999, Oak Ridge Associated Universities This example of a Frisch Grid ionization chamber was constructed in 1959 at Oak Ridge Associated Universities (then the Oak Ridge Institute of Nuclear Studies). It was designed by Elizabeth Rona. 21

22 Copyright 1999, Oak Ridge Associated Universities Rabbits are sample holders/transfer devices used to expose materials to neutrons, e.g., as in neutron activation analysis (NAA). In NAA, the sample is placed inside the rabbit and transferred via a pneumatic line to a reactor core or other neutron source for activation. Afterwards, the induced radioactivity in the sample is analyzed. The examples shown here were used by Elizabeth Rona who worked at Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) in the 1950’s. The reactor she utilized was probably the Oak Ridge Graphite Reactor. 22

23 She died in Oak Ridge on July 27, 1981. Her work is less known in Hungary, fewer references can be found in Hungarian than in English. We try to uncover and open to the public her career to recover her reputation, by writing articles, giving lectures about her and referencing to her Hungarian publications and her early work with Nobel-prize winner George Hevesy. 23

24 24 Thank you for your kind attention!

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