Glenn T. Seaborg
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Glenn T. Seaborg

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Glenn Seaborg

Name: Glenn T. Seaborg (1912-1999)

Occupation: Chief - Plutonium Separation

Site: University of Chicago Met Lab

Years on Project: 1942-1946

Glenn Theodore Seaborg was born in Ishpeming, Michigan on April 19, 1912. He received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1933 and a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1937 from the University of California, Berkeley. He became a chemistry instructor at Berkeley in 1939 and worked his way up to full professor in 1945. With Edwin McMillan, Joseph W. Kennedy, and Arthur Wahl, Seaborg was the first to produce and isolate plutonium in 1940.

From 1942 to 1946, Seaborg took leave from Berkeley to lead the Manhattan Project's work on plutonium at the University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory. At the project's peak, he led more than 100 people in the effort to chemically separate fissionable plutonium. The process formulated by his group was used at the Clinton Engineer Works in Oak Ridge as well as at the Hanford production plant. Seaborg was a signatory of the 1945 Franck Report near the end of World War II recommending that the atomic bomb first be demonstrated to the Japanese to allow them the option of surrender, an early sign of his tendencies in favor of nuclear disarmament.

In 1946, Seaborg was appointed by President Truman to be a member of the Atomic Energy Commission's first General Advisory Committee. He is credited with the discovery of plutonium and all further transuranium elements through element 102, nobelium, as well as of more than 100 isotopes; for these achievements he received the 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics with McMillan. Seaborg became chancellor of Berkeley in 1958, a position he held until 1961 when President Kennedy appointed him to the post of AEC chairman. He served as a scientific advisor to Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon and participated in the negotiations for the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty. Seaborg is the only person to have a chemical element (seaborgium) named after him while still alive.

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