I'm researching the history of radiation discoveries.
One interesting tidbit concerns radium's "medical" uses.
Marie Curie extracted radium from pitchblende and analyzed the "rays" it produced with her chemist husband.
Rutherford analyzed the rays and differentiated beta from alpha particles. His findings were published here: E. Rutherford (1899). "Uranium radiation and the electrical conduction produced by it". Philosophical Magazine 47 (284): 109–163.
Radium oxidizes in air, but before it does it possesses a shiny, luminescent glow. After oxidizing it turns black (maybe that is the black dust being found all over Japan since radium is part of uranium's decay chain)
At any rate, in the 1920s, many in the medical community considered radium as a new form of medicine. Its shiny appearance may have enhanced its appeal.
I came across this article in The New York Times archives.
NEW RADIUM FIELD TO BE BOON TO SICK: FOUND IN TURKESTAN American Philanthropists Plan Distribution at Cost ARRANGE FOR MEDICINAL USE Latest Deposit Called Largest and Richest in the World. New York Times [New York, N.Y] 16 Sep 1923: XX2.
The article discusses an American philanthropists' efforts to distribute radium for medical purposes.
The article notes that 1 gram of radium emits 143,000,000,000,000 alpha particles and 71,000,000,000,000 beta particles a second.
When used for medical purposes, the radium would be [excerpted from article] "brought into proximity to the diseased part [of the body] in the usual medical treatment with special tubes."
MAJIA HERE: Imagine inserting with tubes a substance so radioactive that it disintegrates in billions of becquerels per second!
It took the death of many people before recognition dawned that radium is not medicinal.
Especially noteworthy in the sordid history of radium is the story of the "radium girl" factory workers who painted clock faces with radium. They shaped their paint brushes with their mouths thereby ingesting radium paint.
Read about them here: http://www.radford.edu/~wkovarik/envhist/radium.html#lawsuit