William J. A. Bailey

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William J. A. Bailey
William John Aloysius Bailey

(1884-05-25)May 25, 1884
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
DiedMay 17, 1949(1949-05-17) (aged 64)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
EducationBoston Latin School
Alma materHarvard University
Occupation(s)Inventor, businessman

William John Aloysius Bailey (May 25, 1884 – May 17, 1949) was an American patent medicine inventor and salesman. A Harvard University dropout, Bailey falsely claimed to be a doctor of medicine and promoted the use of radioactive radium as a cure for coughs, flu, and other common ailments.[1] Although Bailey's Radium Laboratories in East Orange, New Jersey, was continually investigated by the Federal Trade Commission, he died wealthy from his many devices and products, including an aphrodisiac called Arium, marketed as a restorative that "renewed happiness and youthful thrill into the lives of married peoples whose attractions to each other had weakened."[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Bailey was born on May 25, 1884, in Boston, Massachusetts, and attended Boston Latin School. He was later accepted to Harvard University but did not graduate.[3]


In 1918, Bailey claimed that radium added to drinking water could be used to treat dozens of conditions, from mental illness and headaches to diabetes, anemia, constipation, and asthma.[4]

In 1922 he had had some success selling medicines like Arium radium tablets (‘Radium!  Gives Super-Man Power’) through his other company, Associated Radium Chemists Inc. The company also sold Linarium (radium liniment for aches and pains), Dentarium (radium dentifrice for teeth and gums) and Kaparium (radium hair tonic).[5]

Bailey became rich from the sale of Radithor, a well known patent medicine/snake oil that is possibly the best known example of radioactive quackery. Bailey created Radithor by dissolving radium salts in water to deliver 1 microcurie of radiation from each of 226Ra and 228Ra, claiming its curative properties were due to stimulation of the endocrine system. Radithor was advertised as "A Cure for the Living Dead" as well as "Perpetual Sunshine".[6]

Radithor was a chronically lethal mixture, and was responsible for the death of Eben Byers in 1932, who died of radiation-induced cancer after drinking about 1,400 bottles of Radithor.[6][7]

Bailey also invented the Radiendocrinator around 1930. This was a cased source, intended to be worn against the skin.[8]

During World War II, Bailey was the wartime manager of the electronic division of International Business Machines.[9]


Bailey died of bladder cancer on May 17, 1949.[3][8] When his body was exhumed nearly 20 years later, it was found to be "ravaged by radiation".[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kacirk, Jeffrey, Forgotten English, Harper, 1999.
  2. ^ "Radithor (ca. 1925–1928)". ORAU. Retrieved October 7, 2021.
  3. ^ a b "William J.A. Bailey". New York Times. May 18, 1949. Retrieved September 25, 2011. William J.A. Bailey, inventor and writer, died here last night at the age of 64. Born in Boston, Bailey attended Boston Latin School and was graduated in ...
  4. ^ "Medicine: Radium Drinks". Time. April 11, 1932. Archived from the original on November 13, 2007. Retrieved May 26, 2009.
  5. ^ Santos, Lucy Jane (2020). Half Lives The Unlikely History of Radium. London: Icon Books Ltd. ISBN 978-1-78578-608-2. OCLC 1158229829.
  6. ^ a b "Radium Cures". museumofquackery.com.
  7. ^ "Death Stirs Action on Radium 'Cures'. Trade Commission Speeds Its Inquiry. Health Department Checks Drug Wholesalers. Autopsy Shows Symptoms. Maker of "Radithor" Denies It Killed Byers, as Does Victim's Physician in Pittsburgh. Walker Uses Apparatus. Friends Alarmed to Find Mayor Has Been Drinking Radium-Charged Water for Last Six Months". New York Times. April 2, 1932. Retrieved October 1, 2011. Federal and local agencies, as well as medical authorities in various parts of the country, were stirred to action yesterday as a result of the death of Eben M. Byers, wealthy Pittsburgh steel manufacturer and sportsman, who died here Wednesday at the Doctors' Hospital from causes attributed to radium poisoning resulting from the drinking of water containing radium in solution. ...
  8. ^ a b "The Radiendocrinator". Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) Health Physics Historical Instrumentation Museum Collection.
  9. ^ "William J.A. Bailey". Boston Globe. May 18, 1949. Retrieved September 25, 2011. ... for William Bailey 64 writer and wartime manager of the electronic division of International Business Machines Company who died last night will be held ...
  10. ^ Winslow, Rob (August 1, 1990). "The Radium Water Worked Fine Until His Jaw Came Off" (PDF). The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 16, 2017.