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Glenn Theodore Seaborg (Ishpeming, Michigan, April 19, 1912-Lafayette, California, February 25, 1999) was a leading American atomic and nuclear physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry at 1951 for his “discoveries in the chemistry of transuranic elements.” He is remembered above all for the discovery and isolation of ten chemical elements, for the development of the concept of the actinide element and for being the first to propose the actinide series, which he set the current layout of the periodic table of the elements.
Glenn Seaborg’s Biography
Seaborg was born in Ishpeming, Michigan, to Swedish parents: Herman Theodore (Ted) and Selma Olivia Erickson Seaborg. He had only one sister, Jeanette. When Glenn Seaborg was a child, the family moved to Home Gardens, later annexed to the city of South Gate, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. He kept a diary with his activities since 1927 until in 1989 he suffered a heart attack. As a young man he was fascinated by sports and cinema. His interest in science did not arise until he met a physics and chemistry teacher who inspired him (the name is Dwight Logan Reid, a professor at the David Starr Jordan High School in Watts, Los Angeles, California).
He graduated from Jordan in 1929, was the first of his class and graduated in chemistry from the University of California in 1934. At UCLA he was invited by a German professor to meet with Albert Einstein, an experience that had a profound Impact on Seaborg. Seaborg worked during those years as a fruit packager and laboratory assistant.
I work as a graduate
He studied his doctorate in chemistry in 1937 at the University of California, Berkeley, and his doctoral thesis focused on the inelastic scattering of neutrons (it was there that he coined the term nuclear spallation). He was a member of the professional chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma. As a graduate student in the 1920s, Seaborg developed research in wet chemistry with the help of his advisor, Gilbert Newton Lewis, and together with him published three articles on the theory of acids and bases. Seaborg studied in detail the text Applied Radiochemistry (Applied Radiochemistry), by Otto Hahn, of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin, with which he deepened his interest in nuclear physics. For several years, Seaborg conducted important investigations on artificial radioactivity using the cyclotron of Lawrence de Berkeley laboratories. There he began to know the nuclear fission Seaborg began in those years to be an expert in nuclear science and this caught the attention of Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer had a reputation for providing long answers, often deep and quite lengthy without the question being over on the part of the interlocutor. On the contrary, Seaborg acquired the habit of asking questions of rapid formulation, sometimes raised in a veiled manner, which earned him a reputation as a succinct person.
Pioneer of nuclear chemistry
Seaborg stayed at the University of California, Berkeley, to finish his postdoctoral research. He continued with the work of Frederick Soddy on the investigations of the isotopes and contributed to the discovery of more than 100 isotopes of different elements. Using one of the cyclotrons of his professor, John Livingood Lawrence, Fred Fairbrother and Seaborg created a new isotope of iron, iron 59 ( Fe-59 ) in 1937. Iron-59 was useful in the Studies of hemoglobin in human blood. In 1938, Livingood and Seaborg collaborated to create an important iodine isotope, Iodo-131 (I-131), which is still used today for the treatment of the thyroid. Many years later this contribution made it possible to prolong the life of his mother. As a result of these and other contributions, Seaborg was hailed as a pioneer in nuclear medicine applications, in addition to being one of the most prolific isotope discoverers.
In 1939 he became an instructor in chemistry at UC Berkeley, and was promoted to assistant professor in 1941 and professor in 1945. UC Berkeley physicist Edwin McMillan led the team that discovered the element 93, neptunium, in 1940. In November 1940, McMillan temporarily left Berkeley to urgently assist in research into radar technology. As Seaborg and his colleagues had perfected McMillan’s oxidation-reduction methods to isolate the neptunium, Seaborg asked McMillan to continue the research collaboration in element 94. McMillan agreed. Seaborg was the first to develop a report with alpha emission was proportional only to a fraction of element 93 (neptunium), under observation. The first hypothesis of this emission was the contamination of the samples with uranium. But a more detailed analysis of alpha particle emissions showed the existence of element 94. In February 1941, Seaborg and his collaborators Arthur C. Wahl and Joseph W. Kennedy discovered and isolated that element of atomic number 94. Chemical element 94, which was later called plutonium, would change the history of mankind for its role in nuclear war. Plutonium is relatively stable, but decays rapidly by the emission of alpha particles in neptunium. In the same year in which it produced plutonium, in 1941, it discovered the U235 isotope, also of enormous importance in nuclear technology. In 1980 Glenn T. Seaborg transmuted lead into gold, only that the resulting gold barely lasts a few seconds because of its atomic instability and the amount obtained is so microscopic that it makes its profitability unthinkable.
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