The Manhattan Project

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & HistoryNational Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Glenn Seaborg

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Glenn Seaborg (1912-1999) was an American nuclear chemist and winner of the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  

During World War II, much of Seaborg's research was directed toward understanding the chemistry of plutonium. In February 1941, Seaborg and his colleagues produced plutonium-239 through the bombardment of uranium. This experimental achievement proved to be a major contribution in physicists understanding of atomic fission.

On March 28, 1941, Seaborg, physicist Emilio Segre and Berkeley chemist Joseph W. Kennedy were able to demonstrate that plutonium underwent fission with slow neutrons, an important distinction that was crucial to the decisions made in directing Manhattan Project research. Seaborg also helped to develop the extraction process used to isolate the plutonium fuel for Fat Man.

In 1942, Seaborg joined the chemistry division at the University of Chicago's Metallurgical Laboratory. Seaborg was responsible for determining how to extract and isolate plutonium from uranium. His work was developed into industrial processes for producing plutonium at Hanford, WA.