Cyanide, Uranium, and Ammonium Nitrate: When Kids Really Had Fun With Science

Remember the days when every nerdy boy and girl wanted to be a mad scientist?Collectors Weekly compares vintage science toys with ones made today. I remember coveting most of these; the ant farm and visible man/woman were very popular when I was a kid.

Luckily the Atomic Energy Lab, which may be the most dangerous toy ever made, never appeared under my Christmas tree.

In 1951, Gilbert released an “Atomic Energy Lab,” which contained three “very low-level” radioactive sources (alpha, beta, and gamma particles), a U-239 Geiger counter, a Wilson cloud chamber, a spinthariscope, four samples of uranium-bearing ores, and an electroscope to measure radioactivity.

Fortunately, this expensive kit—in today’s dollars, it would cost the equivalent of $350—was not a big hit for Christmas that year, and production ended in 1952. Back in the day, some may have naively believed radiation to be harmless or beneficial, but we now know exposure to the U-238 isotope is linked to cancer, leukemia, lymphoma, and even Gulf War syndrome.

See more here.


  1. Damn left a comment and it disappeared!!
    I was lucky to get a package have been working on it for a year when we were letting a ton of people go, I volunteered. I had a great boss though and she continued to try and get it for me.
    Will be interesting to see how it goes.

  2. I'm working on a deal but I have to make it through the provincial election first.


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