Glenn T. Seaborg - Graduate Work

Graduate Work

Seaborg took his PhD in chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1937 with a doctoral thesis on the inelastic scattering of neutrons in which he coined the term "nuclear spallation". He was a member of the professional chemistry fraternity Alpha Chi Sigma. As a graduate student in the 1930s Seaborg performed wet chemistry research for his advisor Gilbert Newton Lewis and published three papers with him on the theory of acids and bases. Seaborg then studied thoroughly the text Applied Radiochemistry by Otto Hahn, of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin and it had a major impact on his developing interests as a research scientist. For several years, Seaborg conducted important research in artificial radioactivity using the Lawrence cyclotron at UC Berkeley. He was excited to learn from others that nuclear fission was possible—but also chagrined, as his own research might have led him to the same discovery.

Seaborg also became an expert in dealing with noted Berkeley physicist Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer had a daunting reputation, and often answered a junior man's question before it had even been stated. Often the question answered was more profound than the one asked, but of little practical help. Seaborg learned to state his questions to Oppenheimer quickly and succinctly.

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