Seaborg, Glenn T.

Seaborg, Glenn T. (Theodore)

(1912–  ) chemist; born in Ishpeming, Mich. After working as an apricot picker, farmworker, lab assistant, and apprentice linotype operator to pay for tuition, he received his B.A. in chemistry at the University of California: Los Angeles (1934), and his Ph.D. (1937). His early interest was in discovering radioactive isotopes, many of which are used in medical therapy as well as in basic scientific research. In 1939 he turned his attention to the transuranium elements (those with nuclei heavier than that of uranium); working with the cyclotron and his colleagues at the University of California: Berkeley, he eventually produced six such artificial elements. During World War II he worked on the Manhattan Project to develop techniques for the large-scale production of plutonium; the plutonium he produced at a laboratory at the University of Chicago went into the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. In 1946 he returned to his research at Berkeley. He served as chancellor of the University of California (1958–61) and then as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (1961–71). He shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry with Edwin McMillan (1951) for his work on transuranium elements.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.