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Glenn Theodore Seaborg

Born: April 19, 1912
Place: Ishpeming, Michigan
Died: February 25, 1999
Place: Lafayette, California

Glenn Theodore Seaborg Glenn Theodore Seaborg was born April 19, 1912 in Ishpeming, a town on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. His mother was a Swedish immigrant and his father was the son of immigrants, and Glenn learned Swedish at home before he learned to speak English. He loved the outdoors and his Upper Peninsula surroundings. He enjoyed athletics, and, of course, skiing was a natural in his northern environment. Although Seaborg's family packed up and moved to California when Glenn was ten years old, he always remembered his early Michigan upbringing with fondness, and his Swedish ancestry with pride. Even in his later years, when he gained international fame, he would refer to his Michigan roots and Swedish heritage in his speeches to scientific gatherings.

Seaborg and his family found life in California to be a challenge. Money was scarce, so Seaborg set his sights on attending a state university. In high school he discovered that he was intrigued by the sciences, especially physics and chemistry. He entered UCLA after graduating from high school, majored in chemistry, and received his BA from UCLA in 1934. He went on to receive a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. Seaborg thrived in the Berkeley research facilities, and he became widely acknowledged and respected by his fellow researchers.

On February 23, 1941, Seaborg and his team of researchers made history when they discovered a new chemical element, element 94, which they dubbed "plutonium". This discovery attracted the attention of the U.S. government, and Seaborg was recruited to join the Manhattan Project in its quest to create atomic weapons. The Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory became the base of Seaborg's research as he led the U.S. quest to develop an atomic bomb before Hitler could do the same. The team was successful, and the dropping of the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima was the outcome. Ironically, Seaborg and other researchers had petitioned President Harry Truman not to use the bomb on populated areas, but instead to demonstrate its power by detonating it over an unpopulated remote island, but this was not to be. After the detonation of the nuclear weapon, Seaborg spent the rest of his life promoting peaceful applications of nuclear technology.

Seaborg continued his life of research, and while in Chicago, he discovered two more elements, americium (number 95) and curium (number 96). When the war ended, he returned to Berkeley, and continued his research. He and his teams are credited with discovering dozens of isotopes and 10 elements in all. Seaborg has even been honored with his own element, number 106, named "seaborgium". Seaborg's high-profile scientific career includes such honors as a Nobel prize, being named Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley, and Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission under presidents Kennedy, Nixon, and Johnson. Throughout his career, he promoted science education, international science cooperation, nuclear arms control, and conservation of natural resources. He published hundreds of scientific articles, as well as an autobiography.

Purchase Glenn Seaborg's 1998 comprehensive autobiography A Chemist in the White House : From the Manhattan Project to the End of the Cold War through our association with Amazon.com by clicking here.


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