World’s Most Dangerous Toy ‘Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab’ Allowed Children To Handle Radioactive Elements

The world’s most dangerous toy, which potentially exposed your kid to radioactivity, has gone on display in a museum.

The Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab – dubbed as the world’s most dangerous toy – has gone on display at the Ulster Museum in Northern Ireland. The toy’s notoriety is well justified because it includes four types of uranium ore and three sources of radiation. The toy also included an authentic Geiger counter. The counter is essentially an indicator that indicates a person’s relative exposure to radioactive contamination. The counter allowed parents to measure just how contaminated their child had become.


The toy isn’t available now, obviously for the safety of the kids, said Dr Mike Simms, Curator of Palaeontology at National Museums Northern Ireland,

“Perhaps it wouldn’t pass today’s health and safety standards but it is a perfect fit for the Elements exhibition.”

He wasn’t joking about the safety concerns. Though Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab is one of the most elaborate atomic energy educational kits ever produced, it had actual sources of radioactive material, which even modern scientists won’t approach without the best of safety gear. No wonder, the Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab was only available between 1951 and 1952.


Though the toy didn’t sell well, it wasn’t for the risk factor. The miniature atomic lab was one of the most costly toys of the time retailing at $50 – said to be equivalent to $400 today. However, the toy did deserve the lofty price-tag.

Apart from the aforementioned scary items, the education set also included a spinthariscope and a cloud chamber that revealed the speeding particles produced by atomic disintegration

If the observations didn’t tickle your fancy, young kids were even enticed into searching for the rare element. The toy came with a government manual titled “Prospecting for Uranium.” If the safety of your child was not a major concern, parents even had the option to order replacement radioactive sources.

American Flyer Trains 1950, page 8

Though we all know the risks involved in handling radioactive material, it appears the science was much too gung ho back then, explained Dr. Simms,

“I think visitors will find it amazing and amusing that this set allowed budding young scientists to measure radioactivity of Uranium in the comfort of their own homes!”

Available for a very short duration, the educational toy is a highly valuable collector’s item today. But back in the day, the Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab was sold purely as an educational kit “for the junior scientist” and allowed budding nuclear physicists to perform over 150 experiments.

[Image Credit | Wikipedia]