Maker's Name: 
H. Webster
Where made: 
Where used: 
UQ research Labs


       Glass slides of radon preparation plant, and use of radon to treat cancer.

In 1937, Hugh Webster, who had earned his PhD with Chadwick in Cambridge, and had almost discovered the neutron (Chadwick was later awarded the Nobel Prize for that), was appointed as Lecturer in Hospital Physics with costs shared by the Qld Cancer Trust and the Brisbane and South Coast Hospital Board. He set up a preparation plant which captured radioactive radon gas produced by a sample of radium and sealed it in short lengths of gold tubing which could be placed in contact with a tumour. Alpha particles emitted by the radon killed the surrounding cells, particularly the tumour. Examples of wax moulds and (empty) radon seeds are shown.

A textbook written by Webster and Donald Robertson served first year medical and biological science students for many years. During WWII the radium was stored in bombproof containers in case of an air raid. One is on the floor nearby.

When the university moved to St Lucia in 1955 a special Radon Laboratory was constructed, which has recently been converted into a garden feature in the Alumni Garden outside.

After the death of Parnell in 1948, Webster was appointed to the Chair in Physics and led the Ionospheric Physics research .  Robertson did important work on the role of ultraviolet light exposure in causing skin cancer.


This item is part of the UQ Physics Museum ‘100 Years of Physics at UQ’ Tour
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  • Gold radon 'seeds' embedded in wax carrier 
  • Gold radon 'seeds' embedded in wax carrier