Who Discovered the Isotope?

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The discovery of the isotope brought with it the possibility of breaking chemical elements into many small, isolated components that could be used in different ways. It made the possibility of splitting an atom a reality. The use of isotopes in scientific experiments is now common, but its advent ushered in a revolution in chemistry.


The term isotope was first used by Scottish doctor Margaret Todd in a conversation with her cousin, renowned chemist F.Soddy, in 1913. F. Soddy is believed to have taken the first steps in isolating the isotope by degenerating uranium. H.N. McCoy and W.H. Ross later conclusively showed the method of isolating the radioactive isotope of uranium. J.J. Thompson and his associate, F.W. Aston, conducted many experiments to show that many substances, when ionized, had species that were much heavier than the main content. In 1931, Harold Urey and G.M. Murphy discovered the effect of isotopes on the mass of an atom.


The term isotope is a combination of the Greek word Isos, which means equal, and topos, the word for place. Before the discovery of the isotope, it was assumed that the mass of a standard number of atoms in a chemical element was the most basic feature of the density of the element. Isotopes presented to the world a component of the element that was smaller than an atom and derived from an atom. These components were sometimes heavier in mass than the main chemical.


The discovery of the isotope was not only useful to chemistry but for many other disciplines. The best known use of the isotope is in nuclear weapons and energy. In medicine, isotopes are used in photosynthesis to study the effect of animal metabolism in food. They are also used in bone imaging and radiation therapy to treat cancer. Isotopes are used in the sensors of smoke detectors in buildings. Archeologists use carbon isotopes to determine the age of an object, a process known as carbon 14 dating.


The discovery of the isotope showed that no two chemicals can be the same. Substances that occupy the same position in the chemical periodic table of elements and have the same chemical properties have differences because of their isotopic components. One significant difference is the mode of radioactive decay of similar chemical elements occupying the same place in the periodic table. The Isotope itself may have a heavier mass than then parent chemical. Isotopes made it possible to isolate the pure form of a chemical.


The discovery of the isotope made researchers rethink the periodic table. Isotopes had distinct and different effects on each mineral. Each isotope had its own properties and distinct use. Isotopes also affected the mass and density of its parent chemical. The discovery of isotopes is an ongoing process and with the discovery of a new chemical element, new isotopes are isolated with their own unique properties.

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