Antique Spinthariscopes

Overview: Invented by William Crookes in 1903, spinthariscopes are designed to show the emission of alpha particles from a radioactive source (typically Ra-226) as they strike a zinc sulfide screen. These scintillations are viewed through a small objective lens which focuses on a zinc sulfide screen at the other end of the tube in front of which is suspended the source. It typically takes about 20 minutes for dark adaptation of the human eye to occur and when it does, the sight of the atomic disintegrations is quite stunning. It looks almost as if one is looking into a meteor shower. 

Extremely Rare Series of Spinthariscopes from Berlin

These extremely rare spinthariscopes were made in Berlin in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s and were recently discovered by a scientist in an old lab in Russia. They were a part of an "Alpha Lab Atomic Laboratory Set.”  The boxes with this equipment were marked "Alpha Labor. Berlin. GDR”  The scientist who collected these said that in the 1950’s and 60’s a lot of laboratory equipment and instruments were exported to the former Soviet Union from the former German Democratic Republic. The hand inscriptions on the devices are especially interesting and typical of lab devices from this time period. Note that the Spinthariscope below is marked Pu for Plutonium. Analysis with a Gamma Spectrometer shows Am-241, which is an indicator of Plutonium. 

1957 Spinthariscope with Source Cap from Berlin

Description: The first spinthariscope in this series was made in Berlin in 1957. It ha a unique design. Note the source has a small rubber-like cap which was designed apparently to protect the source (and zinc sulfide) except when in use.  After a few minutes of dark adaptation, the scintillations are very clear, and appear to emanate from a ring, as would be expected with the Zinc Sulfide coating in the tube. 

Price: $1,500 Sold

1963 Spinthariscope from Berlin

Description: Second spinthariscope from the same series as the one above. This one is dated 1963 and was discovered in the same lab in Russia. 

Price: $1,000 Sold

Spinthariscope with Adjustable Focus / Source Position from Berlin

Description: This spinthariscope is also from the same Berlin lab. It is an incredibly well-machined instrument with very nice optics, and an adjustable distance from the viewing lens. It disassembles as shown in the photos above. The source is embedded in some type of resin.  After a few minutes of dark adaptation and proper focusing, the scintillations are vey clear. 

Price: $1,000 Shipping: $15

1964 Spinthariscope for Microscope from Berlin

Description: This spinthariscope is from the same lab as the ones above.  It is dated 1964. It is designed is for a microscope or loupe. The scintillations are still visible through the plastic disc on the back of the device. When the disc is removed, at 5mm the surface reading is about 15,000 CPM. The scope is marked Pu-239 and also reads Am-214. 

Price: $700 Shipping: $15

Rare “The Hammer” Spinthariscope and Original Box

Description: This rare spinthariscope was named “The Hammer.”  After a few minutes of dark adaptation, the scintillations from this spinthariscope are very clear and bright.  

Price: $1,200 Shipping: $15

Rare Radium Chemical Company Spinthariscope and Original Box

Description: This spinthariscope is rarely seen and was manufactured by the Radium Chemical Company, manufacturers of Undark. The design of this spinthariscope is unique in that the Radium and Zinc Sulfide were mixed together at the back of the scope with a lens placed at the front. After a few minutes of dark adaptation, scintillations can still be clearly seen.  

Price: $900 Shipping: $15

Gilbert Atomic Energy Spinthariscope

Description: This inexpensively made spinthariscope was part of the Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab set from the 1950’s. The Zinc screen no longer shows scintillations. 

Price: $150 Shipping: $15

Scientific Shop Radium Scintillation Slide 

Description: This Radium scintillation slide from The Scientific Shop in Chicago was intended to be used with a microscope or a simple magnifier. The Radium and Zinc Sulfide were mixed together in the sealed disk on the slide.  The disk glows vigorously after exposure to UV light, as well as natural light. Untested with a microscope for scintillations. 

Price: $500 Shipping: $15

H. J. Gray Radium Scintillation Slide 

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Description: This Radium scintillation slide prepared by H. J. Gray was also intended to be used with a microscope or a simple magnifier. The Radium and Zinc Sulfide were mixed together in the sealed disk on the slide.  This disk also glows vigorously after exposure to UV light, as well as natural light. Untested with a microscope for scintillations.

Price: $500 Shipping: $15

Unknown Brand - Bright Scintilloscope from the 1920’s


Description: This antique Scintilloscope is in perfect condition, with gorgeous optics and a nickel-silvered brass tube. It has a screw on the side of the barrel for adjusting focus. After 15 minutes of eyes adapting to the dark, the light show begins with very clear and impressive scintillations.  The Radium source can be seen in the photo but the barrel cannot be opened to measure its activity level.  It measures approximately 5X background radiation through the brass tube.

Price: $700 Shipping: $15

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