World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Willard F. Libby

Willard Libby
File:Willard Libby.jpg
Born (1908-12-17)December 17, 1908
Grand Valley, Colorado
Died September 8, 1980(1980-09-08) (aged 71)
Los Angeles, California
Residence United States
Nationality American
Fields Radioactivity
Institutions Columbia University
University of Chicago
University of California, Los Angeles
Alma mater University of California, Berkeley
Princeton University
Doctoral students Maurice Sanford Fox
Known for Radiocarbon dating
Notable awards Elliott Cresson Medal (1957)
Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1960)

Willard Frank Libby (December 17, 1908 – September 8, 1980) was an American physical chemist noted for his role in the 1949 development of radiocarbon dating, a process which revolutionized archaeology. For his contributions to the team that developed this process, Libby was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960.[1]

Life and career

He received his B.S. in 1931 and Ph.D. in 1933 in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, where he then became a lecturer and later assistant professor. Libby spent the 1930s building sensitive geiger counters to measure weak natural and artificial radioactivity. In 1941 he joined Berkeley's chapter of Alpha Chi Sigma.

Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship, he spent most of 1941 at Princeton University. After the start of World War II, he worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University with Nobel laureate chemist Harold Urey. Libby was responsible for the gaseous diffusion separation and enrichment of the uranium-235 which was used in the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

In 1945 he became a professor at the University of Chicago. In 1954, he was appointed to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. In 1959, he became Professor of Chemistry at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), a position he held until his retirement in 1976. He taught honors freshman chemistry from 1959 to 1963 (in keeping with a University tradition that senior faculty teach this class). He was Director of the University of California statewide Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP) for many years including the lunar landing time. In 1966 he married his second wife Leona Woods Marshall, an original experimenter on the world's first nuclear reactor and a UCLA professor of environmental engineering. He also started the first Environmental Engineering program at UCLA in 1972.

In 1960, Libby was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for leading the team (namely, post-doc James R. Arnold and graduate student Ernie Anderson, with a $5,000 grant) that developed carbon-14 dating. He also discovered that tritium could be used for dating water, and therefore wine.

He attended Analy High School in Sebastopol, California. The school library has a mural of Libby, a Sebastopol city park and a nearby highway are named in his honor.

During his time in the New York City area, Libby was a resident of Leonia, New Jersey.[2]


  • Arnold, J.R. and W. F. Libby. Atomic Energy Commission), (October 10, 1946).
  • Libby, Willard F., Radiocarbon dating, 2d ed., University of Chicago Press, 1955.
  • Libby, W. F. Atomic Energy Commission), (May 29, 1958).
  • Libby, W. F. Atomic Energy Commission), (August 4, 1958).
  • Libby, W. F. International Atomic Energy Agency, (August 15, 1967).
  • Libby, W. F. National Science Foundation, (October 1972).
  • Libby, W. F. National Science Foundation, (October 1972).
  • He also appeared in the science documentary film Target...Earth? (1980).



  • W.F.Libby: Radiocarbon dating. Chemistry in Britain, Dec. 1969; 5(12): 548-552.

External links

  • Annotated Bibliography for Willard Libby from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
  • United States Department of Energy
  • The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1960
  • Biography of Willard Libby
  • UCLA Biography
  • Linus Pauling

Template:Nobel Prize in Chemistry Laureates 1951-1975

  • WorldCat catalog)

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.