Glenn T. Seaborg

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Glenn T. Seaborg bigraphy, stories - American chemist, Nobel Prize laureate

Glenn T. Seaborg : biography

19 April 1912 – 25 February 1999

Glenn Theodore Seaborg (April 19, 1912 – February 25, 1999) was an American scientist who won the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for "discoveries in the chemistry of the transuranium elements",

contributed to the discovery and isolation of ten elements, and developed the actinide concept, which led to the current arrangement of the actinide series in the periodic table of the elements. He spent most of his career as an educator and research scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, where he became the second Chancellor in its history and served as a University Professor. 

Seaborg advised ten presidents from Harry S. Truman to Bill Clinton on nuclear policy. He was the chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission from 1961 to 1971, where he pushed for commercial nuclear energy and the peaceful applications of nuclear science. Throughout his career, Seaborg worked for arms control. He was signatory to the Franck Report, and contributed to the achievement of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. He was a well-known advocate of science education and federal funding for pure research. He was a key contributor to the report "A Nation at Risk" as a member of President Ronald Reagan’s National Commission on Excellence in Education, and was the principal author of the Seaborg Report on academic science issued in the closing days of the Eisenhower administration.

Seaborg was the principal or co-discoverer of ten elements: plutonium, americium, curium, berkelium, californium, einsteinium, fermium, mendelevium, nobelium and element 106, which was named seaborgium in his honor while he was still living. He also discovered more than 100 atomic isotopes, and is credited with important contributions to the chemistry of plutonium, originally as part of the Manhattan Project where he developed the extraction process used to isolate the plutonium fuel for the second atomic bomb. Early in his career, he was a pioneer in nuclear medicine, and discovered isotopes of elements with important applications in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, most notably iodine-131, which is used in the treatment of thyroid disease. In addition to his theoretical work in the development of the actinide concept. which placed the actinide series beneath the lanthanide series on the periodic table, he postulated the existence of super-heavy elements in the transactinide and superactinide series.

After sharing the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Edwin McMillan, he received approximately 50 honorary doctorates and numerous other awards and honors. The list of things named after Seaborg ranges from his atomic element to an asteroid. He was a prolific author, penning more than 50 books and 500 journal articles, often in collaboration with others. He was once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the person with the longest entry in Who’s Who in America.

Notes

Pioneering work in nuclear chemistry

Seaborg remained at the University of California, Berkeley, for post-doctoral research. He followed Frederick Soddy’s work investigating isotopes and contributed to the discovery of more than 100 isotopes of elements. Using one of Lawrence’s advanced cyclotrons, John Livingood, Fred Fairbrother, and Seaborg created a new isotope of iron, iron-59 (Fe-59) in 1937. Iron-59 was useful in the studies of the hemoglobin in human blood. In 1938, Livingood and Seaborg collaborated (as they did for five years) to create an important isotope of iodine, iodine-131 (I-131) which is still used to treat thyroid disease.

(Many years later, it was credited with prolonging the life of Seaborg's mother.) As a result of these and other contributions, Seaborg is regarded as a pioneer in nuclear medicine and is one of its most prolific discoverers of isotopes. 

In 1939 he became an instructor in chemistry at Berkeley, was promoted to assistant professor in 1941 and professor in 1945.