Spinthariscope by United States Radium Corp.

Background on spinthariscopes by United States Radium Corp, Objects ID 1994.0125.18 & .19
A spinthariscope is a device for observing individual nuclear disintegrations caused by the interaction of ionizing radiation with a phosphor or scintillator. Typically, an eyepiece and a radiation source are located at opposite ends of the cylindrical device.
Two types of spinthariscope are shown in the accompanying multi-object image; a Crookes spinthariscope, .17.1, appears on the right, and two spinthariscopes by United States Radium Corp., .18 and .19, appear on the left. (Photograph provided by donor, Prof. Herbert Clark, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.)
For general background on the spinthariscope go to:
Description of objects ID 1994.0125.18 & .19
Object .18 and .19 are the same. A cylinder, probably brass, wrapped with finely-grained black leather stamped in gold, “United States Radium Corp. / New York. The cylinder is 1 15/16” diam. x 1 5/8” long. There is a 3/8” diam. eye lens in the 1 cm long, top end cap (see accompanying image with top oblique view of Object .19).
Object .18 is in better condition than .19. Object .19 has more deterioration of surfaces of end caps than .18, and the edges of the leather wrapping are slightly separated. Object .19 is slightly radioactive.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1920s
United States Radium Corporation
Physical Description
glass (overall material)
leather (overall material)
radioactive source (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 4.2 cm x 4.8 cm; 1 5/8 in x 1 7/8 in
eye lens in top cap: 3/8 in; .9525 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Science & Mathematics
Science & Scientific Instruments
Measuring & Mapping
Modern Physics
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Modern Physics
Modern Physics
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Department of Chemistry
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.