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January 11, 2012

Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab (1950-1951)


Now here's something you won't find at Toys "R" Us.


From the Oak Ridge Associated Universities website:



This was the most elaborate Atomic Energy educational set ever produced, but it was only only available from 1951 to 1952.

Its relatively high price for the time ($50) and its sophistication were the explanation Gilbert gave for the set's short lifespan.

Today, it is so highly prized by collectors that a complete set can go for more than 100 times the original price.

The set came with four types of uranium ore, a beta-alpha source (Pb-210), a pure beta source (Ru-106), a gamma source (Zn-65?), a spinthariscope, a cloud chamber with its own short-lived alpha source (Po-210), an electroscope, a Geiger counter, a manual,


a comic book ("Dagwood Splits the Atom")


and a government manual ("Prospecting for Uranium").

Other Gilbert sets (e.g., the No. 11 Atomic Energy set) continued to carry the spinthariscope, the ore and the manual.

In addition, the Geiger counter could be purchased separately.


[via Troy Flake]

January 11, 2012 at 04:31 PM | Permalink


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How about a "Cold Fusion" lab kit? Doubt many kids would want one, but guessing someblisteners of George Noory's "Coast to Coast" radio program might pay dearly for one.

Posted by: Juan Caruso | Jan 12, 2012 10:57:31 AM

When I was 12, I subscribed to a hobby company that produced kits to teach concepts of science and engineering. I got one kit each month for 12 months.

The kit for nuclear energy included a packet of very-low-grade uranium ore tailings. The project was to place the packet on instant-developing film, give it a few minutes, and peel the film cover off to see that the ore had fogged the film. (There was a second piece of film that served for contrast; aka, the control.)

I did not learn much about nuclear physics from that kit, but I did learn a lot about electrical engineering from another. Enough so that I built my own radio and repaired my father's.

I think it was money well spent. Great value for my dollar.

Posted by: antares | Jan 12, 2012 2:53:24 AM

I had a slightly later-in-time Gilbert set with a "cloud chamber" (solid CO2) to show decay particle tracks. Mine was circa '62.

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Jan 11, 2012 9:34:48 PM

I didn't notice until now that General Leslie Groves consulted on "Dagwood Splits the Atom." He ran the entire Manhattan Project:


Posted by: Troy | Jan 11, 2012 8:05:28 PM

That's not stooping.
And anyway you don't put mint vintage toys where grown children can reach them.

Posted by: Flautist | Jan 11, 2012 7:39:52 PM

I would even stoop this low to play with it,


Posted by: JoePeach | Jan 11, 2012 7:02:58 PM

Want! Want! Want!
And if I can't get the whole thing, I'll settle for learning how "Dagwood Splits the Atom!" by Joe Pepitone, was it?

Posted by: Flautist | Jan 11, 2012 5:26:51 PM

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