Curium is intensely radioactive; it is about 3,000 times as radioactive as radium . It is also very toxic when absorbed into the body because it accumulates in the bones and disrupts the formation of red blood cells. Curium-242 and curium-244 are used in the space program as a heat source (from the heat they generate as they undergo radioactive decay) for compact thermionic and thermoelectric power generation.
Curium has not been found to occur naturally; it was the third transuranium element to be synthesized. Curium was first produced by the bombardment of plutonium-239 with alpha particles in a cyclotron at the Univ. of California at Berkeley. Identified in 1944 by Glenn T. Seaborg , Ralph A. James, and Albert Ghiorso, it was named for Pierre and Marie Curie , the noted pioneers in the study of radioactivity. The metal was first isolated in visible amounts as the hydroxide by L. B. Werner and I. Perlman in 1947.
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