The now-defunct Standard Chemical Company, cofounded by two brothers, Joseph and James Flannery in 1911, became the first corporation to produce radium on a large-scale basis. Joseph learned of radium-based cancer treatment during a European excursion. Limited radium availability prompted the brothers to abandon their vanadium production ventures and produce radium for the masses. Their original goal was to help treat their cancer-stricken sister.
Perhaps one of the world’s most famous poisons, Nero invoked arsenic’s fatally toxic powers to poison his own brother and gain control of the Roman Empire. The self-serving mother in V.C. Andrews’ bestselling novel, Flowers in the Attic, poisoned her unsuspecting children by sprinkling arsenic powder on her children’s cookies—which they mistook for powdered sugar. Despite being a choice poison in historical and fictional murders, healers have used arsenic throughout history to treat syphilis and sleeping sickness. Today, it is still used to treat a certain type of cancer known as acute promyelocytic leukemia.
Image credit: Radithor