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Glenn Theodore Seaborg (1912 - 1999)

By Todd Helmenstine

Glenn Seaborg won the Nobel Prize for his research on transuranium elements.

Glenn Seaborg won the Nobel Prize for his research on transuranium elements.

University of California, Berkeley


April 19, 1912 in Ishpeming, Michigan.


February 25, 1999 in Layfayette, California at age 86.

Claim to Fame:

Pioneer of nuclear chemistry in the United States and is responsible for the actinide concept of heavy element electronic structure. Co-discoverer of plutonium and other elements up to element 102.

Notable Awards:

1951 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with Edwin McMillan for research with transuranic elements.

Between 1946 and 1958, his team added ten new elements to the periodic table.

Appointed chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (1961-1971). President of American Chemical Society in 1976. Element 106 was renamed seaborgium in his honor.

Early Nuclear Chemistry and New Element Group - Actinides:

In February 1941, Seaborg with Edwin McMillan produced and chemically identified the existence of plutonium. He joined the Manhattan Project later that year and started work on the investigation of transuranic elements and better ways to extract plutonium from uranium.

After the end of the war, Seaborg moved back to Berkeley where he came up with the idea of the actinide group to position higher numbered elements in the periodic table of the elements. Over the next twelve years, his group discovered elements 97-102.

Cold War Applications of Nuclear Materials:

Seaborg was appointed chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1961 and held the position for the next ten years, serving three presidents. He used this position to champion the peaceful use of atomic materials such as for medical diagnosis and treatments, carbon dating, and nuclear power. He was also involved in the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

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