100th Birthday: Albert Ghiorso

100th Birthday: Albert Ghiorso

Author: ChemViews

Albert Ghiorso, co-discoverer of a record 12 elements, was born in Vallejo, CA, USA, on July 15, 1915. He studied electrical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), USA, and started his career building Geiger counters. In 1941, he joined Glenn Seaborg in Chicago to work on the Manhattan Project. Together, they discovered the elements americium (95) and curium (96).

Both researchers returned to UC Berkeley after the war, and together with their colleagues went on to discover elements 97 to 101 (berkelium, californium, einsteinium, fermium, and mendelevium) in the years 1949 to 1955. After the construction of the Berkeley Heavy Ion Accelator (HILAC) was completed, the group discovered elements 102 to 106 (nobelium, lawrencium, rutherfordium, dubnium, and seaborgium), all in the time between 1958 and 1974. In 1951, Glenn Seaborg received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry together with Edwin Mattison McMillan “for their discoveries in the chemistry of the transuranium elements”.

Altogether, Albert Ghiorso was involved in the discovery of 12 elements, more than any other researcher. He developed radiation detectors that allowed the characterization of heavy elements and designed experiments such as the measurements that led to the discovery of einsteinium and fermium. Based on Ghiorso’s suggestion, the team at Berkeley’s Lawrence Radiation Laboratory found the two elements in dust collected in the filters of airplanes which had monitored the first hydrogen bomb test. He was responsible for naming element 106 “seaborgium”, which caused some controversy since Seaborg was alive at the time. Ghiorso’s creativity and inventor spirit were not limited to his research. Among his colleagues, he was famous for his colorful doodles, found all over the lab, and as an avid bird-watcher, he invented a special flash to photograph rare birds.

Albert Ghiorso is the answer to Guess the Chemist (43).



Publications by Albert Ghiorso


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