When Byers died, he was put to rest in a lead-lined coffin, to block the radiation being released from the bones in his body. Thirty-three years later, in 1965, an MIT scientist, Robley Evans, exhumed Byers’ skeleton to measure the amount of radium in his bones. Radium has a half-life of 1,600 years, so Byers’ bones would have had virtually the same amount of radium in them as they did on the day he died.
Evans was an expert at measuring and mathematically modeling the human body’s uptake and excretion of radioactivity. Based on Byers’ self-reported RadiThor consumption, Evans’ model had predicted that Byers’ body would contain about 100,000 becquerel of radioactivity. (“Becquerel” is an international unit of radioactivity.) What he found was that Byers’ skeletal remains actually had a total of 225,000 becquerel, suggesting that either Evans’ model of radiation uptake was underestimating radium’s affinity for bone, or alternatively, that Byers had actually understated his personal RadiThor consumption by a factor of at least two. It was not possible to determine which alternative accounted for the discrepancy.