The museum is open Fridays through Tuesdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free timed-entry passes are required. Review our latest visitor safety guidelines.



Usage conditions apply
A spinthariscope consists of a fluorescent screen, a magnifying eyepiece, and a speck of radium. By looking through the eyepiece, one sees scintillations caused by alpha particles from the radium hitting the screen. William Crookes, a prominent English chemist, designed the form in 1903, coined the term (deriving it from the Greek word for scintillation), and arranged for its manufacture. The inscription on this example reads “UNITED STATES RADIUM CORPS. / NEW YORK.”
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
Physical Description
metal; glass; leather; radioactive source (overall material)
overall: 4.2 cm x 4.8 cm; 1 5/8 in x 1 7/8 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Department of Chemistry
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Modern Physics
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object