Wednesday 16 November 2011
Last week I went to a Royal Society of Chemistry lecture about Frederick Soddy, who had been at Aberystwyth in 1894 and won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1921 for his discovery of isotopes. The speaker was Dr Alun Price. I was fascinated by this diagram that Soddy showed to the British Association meeting in Birmingham in 1913, depicting what he knew about the radioactive decay of 3 elements (actinium, uranium, thorium). At first - what an untidy looking diagram! But then it does show what he knew at the time in an organised way, and tells the story far better than a paragraph of words. He now has a uranium compound named after him: Soddyite.
Apart from his fantastic work in chemistry, he also wrote poetry and wrote books about economics. One of the quotes given in the talk was: "The man who said that it was not possible to fool all the public all of the time was fortunately quite ignorant of the methods of modern banking" (Frederick Soddy, 1924).