World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory

Article Id: WHEBN0008473505
Reproduction Date:

Title: Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Cloud chamber, Index of physics articles (G)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory

The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab is a toy lab set that was produced by Alfred Carlton Gilbert, who was an American athlete, magician, toy-maker, and business man and inventor of the well-known Erector Set. The U-238 Atomic Energy Lab was released by the A.C. Gilbert Company in 1950. This lab's intention was to allow children to create and watch chemical reactions using radioactive material.

The lab contained a cloud chamber that allowed the viewer to watch alpha particles travel at 12,000 miles per second, a spinthariscope that showed the results of radioactive disintegration on a fluorescent screen and an electroscope that measured the radioactivity of different substances that were in the set. This toy is looked upon as being dangerous because of the radioactive material in the set, but Gilbert claims that none of the materials could conceivably prove dangerous.[1]

Unlike Gilbert's other chemistry sets that his company released, the U-238 Energy Lab never gained popularity and the toy was taken off shelves only a year later, selling only from 1950 and 1951. Even over 35 years after its release, children still preferred the Erector Set.[2]


Gilbert believed that toys were the foundation in building a "solid American character" and many of his toys had some type of educational significance to them. Gilbert was even dubbed “the man who saved Christmas” during World War I when he convinced the U.S. Council of National Defense to not ban toy purchases during Christmas time.[2]

The Atomic Energy Lab was just one of dozen chemical reactions labs that were on the market at the time. For Gilbert’s toys, he often included instructions on how the child could use the set to put own their own “magic show”. For parents, he pushed the idea that the sets that used chemical reactions set up their child in the right direction for a potential career in a science or engineering related field.[3]

Later Years

In 1954, Gilbert wrote his autobiography, The Man Who Lives in Paradise, where he describes the Atomic Energy Laboratory as “the most spectacular of [their] new educational toys”. Gilbert wrote that the government unofficially encouraged the set's development because they believed that the lab would aid in public understanding of atomic energy and stress the constructive side of atomic energy. Gilbert also defended the Atomic Energy Laboratory, saying that it was completely safe and accurate, and some of the country’s best nuclear physicists had worked on the project.

Gilbert believes that Energy Atomic Laboratory was unsuccessful because the lab was for those who had some educational background rather than the younger crowd that the A.C. Gilbert Company usually aimed for. Columbia University even purchased five of these sets for their physics lab.[1]

The Original Advertisement
Gilbert Cloud Chamber, assembled

The set originally sold for $49.50 ($461.43 in 2014 US dollars)[4] and contained the following: American Memorabilia,[5]

A product catalogue describes it as follows: "Produces awe-inspiring sights! Enables you to actually SEE the paths of electrons and alpha particles traveling at speeds of more than 10,000 miles per SECOND! Electrons racing at fantastic velocities produce delicate, intricate paths of electrical condensation--beautiful to watch. Viewing Cloud Chamber action is closest man has come to watching the Atom! Assembly kit (Chamber can be put together in a few minutes) includes Dri-Electric Power Pack, Deionizer, Compression Bulb, Glass Viewing Chamber, Tubings, power leads, Stand and Legs."


  1. ^ a b Gilbert, A.C. (1954) The Man Who Lives in Paradise' (pp. 333-334).
  2. ^ a b Watson, B (1999) Hello Boys! Become an erector master engineer. Smithsonian, 30(2), 120
  3. ^ DiVernieri, R. (2008, September) "Stinks and bangs: They heyday of the chemistry set." Endeavour 32(3) 107-110
  4. ^ Inflation.
  5. ^ Google Answers,
  6. ^ a b c Oak Ridge Associated Universities, retrieved December 26, 2009

External links

  • A. C. Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab by Frank J. Leskovitz
  • Oak Ridge Associated University Atomic Toys' page
  • Listing on an Erector / Gilbert fan site
  • Very bad toys: Atomic Energy Lab usa ca. 1960

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.