Willard Frank Libby
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1960
Born: 17 December 1908, Grand Valley, CO, USA
Died: 8 September 1980, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Prize motivation: “for his method to use carbon-14 for age determination in archaeology, geology, geophysics, and other branches of science”
Prize share: 1/1
Carbon is a fundamental component in all living material. In nature there are two variants, or isotopes: carbon-12, which is stable, and carbon-14, which is radioactive. Carbon-14 forms in the atmosphere when acted upon by cosmic radiation and then deteriorates. When an organism dies and the supply of carbon from the atmosphere ceases, the content of carbon-14 declines through radioactive decay at a fixed rate. In 1949 Willard Libby developed a method for applying this to determine the age of fossils and archeological relics.
Their work and discoveries range from the Earth’s climate and our sense of touch to efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.
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