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Glenn Theodore Seaborg

(1912—1999) American nuclear chemist


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(1912–1999)

US chemist, who was awarded the 1951 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his discovery of a large number of transuranic elements.

Seaborg's father, a machinist, emigrated to the USA from Sweden, Seaborg himself being educated at the University of California, Berkeley, where he gained his PhD in 1937. He remained at Berkeley where in 1940, with several colleagues, he isolated the new element 94, later known as plutonium. With the outbreak of World War II, Seaborg moved to the Metallurgical Laboratory at Chicago, where he worked on the production of plutonium. The techniques worked out by Seaborg in Chicago were later used at the plant in Hanford, Washington, to produce the plutonium for the first atomic bomb. Seaborg continued to work on the transuranic elements and between 1944 and 1958 his group at Berkeley was involved in the discovery of all the elements from 95 (americium), discovered in 1944, up to and including 102 (nobelium), in 1958.

Seaborg returned to Berkeley after the war as professor of chemistry at the Radiation Laboratory, also serving as chancellor from 1958. He left Berkeley again in 1961 to serve for a ten-year period as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, during which time the US nuclear-power industry underwent considerable growth. In 1971 he returned to Berkeley to the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, as it had been named, remaining there until his retirement from university work in 1984. His publications include Nuclear Milestones (1972), Stemming the Tide (1987), about nuclear arms control, and The Plutonium Story (1994), an edition of his World War II diaries.

Subjects: Warfare and Defence — Science and Mathematics.


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