Radioactive Clapham

At the back of a scientific journal article from 1916 in the papers of King’s College London physicist Claude Curling, are some fascinating adverts, including these two.

Frederick Harrison Glew was a chemist with a shop in the Clapham Road, and one of the earliest pioneers in the use of X-rays.  He opened his ‘radiographic laboratory’ in 1897, behind his shop, and developed early X-ray equipment, some of it now in the Science Museum.  He was chief advisor on ‘radium technique’ to the Ministry of Munitions, World War One, chiefly for the use of radioactive paint on compasses, like those produced by W Watson & Sons, and was awarded an MBE for his services.

Glew died in 1926, aged 68.  In 1956 his name was inscribed on the radiation martyrs memorial in Hamburg to those who perished in the cause of early radiation research, when the lethal effects of radium were little-known.

A small bottle of Glew’s ‘radioactive compound’ turned up in an auction lot of a doctor’s effects in 1982, and turned out on testing to be highly radioactive.

The British Library has put online an earlier advertisement for Glew’s chemist’s shop, from 1891, including hair restorer, toothpaste and complexion cream – see


both accessed 6 November 2014

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