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This day in history, in 1942, Glenn Seaborg and other University of Chicago scientists weighed the recently explored element plutonium for the first time.  The element was later used as the principal element in the Manhattan Project as well as later in the bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki.

In researching this event, Glenn Seaborg has increasingly stood out as quite the interesting character. Seaborg was born in 1912 and died February of 1999.  In those 86 years, he discovered elements, wrote books, consulted ten U.S. Presidents, contributed to three international treaties, and won a Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1951.  Seaborg was published not only in books but in over 500 journal articles as well.  He also contributed to newspapers during his life.  In a 1969 newspaper, he wrote a piece countering a common solution to the pollution problem of his day.  You can read the article yourself here: Seaborg on Pollution: Technology is the Answer.  This is just one example of his writing.  Located in the Main Library’s General Collection, Man and Atom delves into the relationship between man and (then) recent scientific discoveries.  Seaborg was certainly a scientific minded man, but his brilliance did not stop there.  His ability to write and to communicate complicated ideas to the average reader, and even go on to make them interesting and relevant was outstanding.  This quality is evident throughout this book.  Seaborg was also a bit of a humorist.  He initially named Plutonium-239 “Pu” as a joke, but it ended up in the Periodic Table of the Elements as “Pu” anyways.  Also, be sure to check out the section entitled, “The Cyborgs are Coming,” on page 254.  You will not be disappointed.

Learn more about this exciting life and the contributions it made in the book below.  This book can be found in the Sanders Science Library and focuses more on the man behind the work, rather than the work and its effect on society.

A chemist in the White House : from the Manhattan Project to the end of the cold war


Chase’s Calendar of Events


Man and Atom

A Chemist in the White House