Marietta Blau (1894-1970)
Digital Illustration, 24" x 32", 2022
Marietta Blau was the physicist responsible for creating a photographic method of nuclear emulsions that captured reactions caused by cosmic ray events. Her discovery advanced the field of particle physics.
Working as an unpaid scientist for the Institute of Radium Research in Vienna, Blau identified the energy from alpha-particles and protons left behind in emulsions. She developed a photographic emulsion technique by using the study of cosmic rays; high energy protons and atomic nuclei that move through space at the speed of light. Through this work she discovered “disintegration stars” which used patterns of particle tracks from nuclear reactions.
Blau fled from Austria in 1938 to Mexico City then to America to continue her work at Columbia University on photographic methods of particle detection. In 1950, physicist Cecil Powell was awarded a Nobel Prize utilizing Blau’s photographic method of nuclear processes; Blau was not recognized for her contribution. She passed away in 1970 at age 75 from radioactive exposure without receiving recognition for her work.