Willard Frank Libby (Chemist) – Bio, Birthday, Family, Age & Born

Willard Libby

Willard Frank Libby was an American physical chemist noted for his role in the 1949 development of radiocarbon dating, a process which revolutionized archaeology and palaeontology. For his contributions to the team that developed this process, Libby was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960. A 1927 chemistry graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, from which he received his doctorate in 1933, he studied radioactive elements and developed sensitive Geiger counters to measure weak natural and artificial radioactivity. During World War II he worked in the Manhattan Project’s Substitute Alloy Materials Laboratories at Columbia University, developing the gaseous diffusion process for uranium enrichment. After the war, Libby accepted professorship at the University of Chicago’s Institute for Nuclear Studies, where he developed the technique for dating organic compounds using carbon-14.

Born: Willard Frank Libby, December 17, 1908, Grand Valley, Colorado
Died: September 8, 1980, Los Angeles, California
Nationality: American
Fields: Radioactivity
Institutions: University of California, Berkeley, SAM Laboratories, University of Chicago, University of California, Los Angeles
Alma mater: University of California, Berkeley
Thesis: Radioactivity of ordinary elements, especially samarium and neodymium: method of detection (1933)
Doctoral students: Maurice Sanford Fox, Frank Sherwood Rowland
Known for: Radiocarbon dating
Notable awards: Elliott Cresson Medal (1957), Willard Gibbs Award (1958), Joseph Priestley Award (1959), Albert Einstein Award (1959), Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1960), Arthur L. Day Medal (1961)

About Willard Frank Libby

Physical chemist whose carbon dating method of determining age revolutionized archaeology and earned him the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He also did research on tritium and found that it could be used for dating water.

Before Fame

At 25 years of age he obtained his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley, where he then became a lecturer and later assistant professor.


Measuring the levels of a carbon isotope allowed his technique to precisely measure the age of objects tens of thousands of years old.

Family Life

His second wife Leona Woods Marshall was involved in the testing of the world’s first nuclear reactor.


Owen Chamberlain, like him, was among the scientists who worked on the top-secret Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb during World War II.

Information related to Willard Libby

  • Columbia University people
  • Nobel laureates in Chemistry
  • American physical chemists
  • American Nobel laureates
  • Manhattan Project people

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