88Ra Radium

Year Discovered


Discovered By

Marie and Pierre Curie of France

Biological Rating

Not necessary for life.


Named from the Latin word meaning “ray,” radium is a soft, shiny, silvery-white metal which tarnishes quickly. It is radioactive as well as chemically active, reacting with air, water and acids. Radium compounds glow, although the metal itself does not. The curie, a measurement of radioactivity, is based upon radium. Radium was used to treat cancer and in making luminous paints and glow-in-the-dark watch dials, but for the most part it is no longer used for these purposes. When alloyed with beryllium, it produces neutrons and it is still used as a neutron source. The most stable isotope of radium has a half-life of 1,600 years.

Biological Benefits

Radium has no known biological use.

Role in Life Processes

No known benefit for life processes in plants and animals.


Radium is a decay product of uranium, so it is found in small amounts in all uranium-bearing rocks. It was chiefly obtained as a by-product of uranium processing. It is seldom collected anymore.