Urey, Harold Clayton

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Urey, Harold Clayton

(yo͝or`ē), 1893–1981, American chemist, b. Walkerton, Ind., grad. Univ. of Montana (B.S., 1917), Ph.D. Univ. of California, 1923. He taught at Johns Hopkins (1924–29), at Columbia (1929–45; as head of the department of chemistry from 1939 to 1942), and at the Univ. of Chicago (1945–58). He became professor-at-large at the Univ. of California in 1958. For his isolation of deuterium (heavy hydrogen) he received the 1934 Nobel Prize in Chemistry; he later isolated heavy isotopes of oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and sulfur. During World War II, Urey took part in the research leading to the production of the atomic bomb; his special work was on methods of separating uranium isotopes and the production of heavy water. With A. E. Ruark he wrote Atoms, Molecules, and Quanta (1930).
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Urey, Harold Clayton


Born Apr. 29, 1893, in Walkerton, Ind.; died Jan. 5, 1981, in La Jolla, Calif. American chemist. Member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Urey graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in zoology and taught there from 1919 to 1921. He performed research under G. N. Lewis at the University of California from 1921 to 1924 and then under N. Bohr in Copenhagen. Together with the American chemists F. G. Brickwedde and G. M. Murphy, he discovered deuterium; a report on the discovery was published in 1932.

Beginning in 1940, Urey directed research on the separation of uranium isotopes and the production of heavy water. In 1945 he began studying problems of geochemistry and cosmochemistry. His most important contribution to these fields was the discovery that amino acids are formed upon passage of an electric discharge through a mixture of ammonia, methane, water, and hydrogen; this fact indicates that amino acids may have been formed in the atmosphere.

Urey received a Nobel Prize in 1934.


Kogan; I. B. “Garol’d Kleiton Iuri.” Zhurnal Vsesoiuznogo khimicheskogo obshchestva im D. I. Mendeleeva, 1975, vol. 20, no. 6, p. 647.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.