Friday, April 1, 2011

Who Made That Radiation Symbol?

For hundreds of years, the image of a skull and crossbones was all we needed to communicate the concept of poison. That is, until we started experimenting with radioactive compounds. The symbol we commonly associate with radiation or radioactive materials was devised in late 1946 by an unspecified group of individuals working at UC Berkeley’s Radiation Laboratory (now Berkeley Lab). At the time, the negative effects of radiation were only beginning to be understood well enough to warrant any kind of warning label. In fact, the symbol was originally intended only for local use at Berkeley, primarily in the form of hang tags (pictured) and stickers.

Well the New York Times almost had it right, except the radiation symbol was actually created by Cyrill Orly, as seen in these iPhone photos of an actual sign taken by me, right here at Berkeley Lab!
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