Alice Leigh-Smith, first British woman to earn a PhD in nuclear physics

September 11, 1907, in Karlovac (Croatia) – 1987 (France)

Her maiden name was Prebil.

She is known for being the first woman in British history to receive a PhD in nuclear physics. In addition, she is remembered for her pioneering cancer research and her attempts to discover element 85 of the periodic table.

In 1932, at the age of 25, she began working at the Radium Institute in Paris (France) under the tutelage of Marie Curie and, a year later, she married Philip Leigh-Smith, a British diplomat and son of the Arctic explorer Benjamin Leigh. -Smith. Anecdotally, her comedy “Ladies in diplomacy” is supposedly based on the adventures of her wife, Alice.

In 1935, she became the first woman in Britain to receive a PhD in nuclear physics. It is currently accepted that she defended her thesis in London, however it is unknown which university she was awarded her degree from.

From 1936, he conducted cancer research as part of the British Empire Cancer Campaign. Between 1938 and 1940, during World War II, he continued his studies at the University of Bern (Switzerland) and in January 1943, he published an advance of the results of his study on the treatment of cancer with radioactive substances in the London Times. .

In 1942, together with a Swiss chemist, Walter Minder, they announced the discovery of periodic table element 85 (now known as astatine). They proposed the name anglohelvetium, in honor of their nationality, Anglo after Alice Leigh-Smith and helvetium, the Latin name for Switzerland, Helvetia, after Walter Minder. Later it was verified that they had not really discovered it since their results were not replicable.

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