The Early Radiocarbon Years: Personal Reflections

  • Hans E. Suess


In 1949, Harrison Brown arranged an invitation for me to spend a limited time at the Institute for Nuclear Studies at the University of Chicago. I considered myself most fortunate to be invited to this institute, not only because of the large number of Nobel laureates working there, but also because Willard Libby had just developed a method for age determinations on wood and other substances which are formed by photosynthesis from atmospheric CO2 and water. Libby’s method made it possible to obtain well-defined values for the time elapsed since the respective organic substance had formed. It seemed obvious to me that, by concentrating on this method, rather spectacular results in a variety of fields could be obtained. In 1950, soon after my arrival in Chicago from Europe, I had seen Willard Libby (called Bill by his colleagues) at the Institute, walking along the corridor. One day I approached him bravely and asked him if I could see him in his office and talk about his 14C dating method. Libby nodded, pulled out a notebook, “Next week, Tuesday, three in the afternoon,” he said, and without waiting for an answer, walked away.


Tree Ring Cupric Oxide Walk Away Radiocarbon Measurement Glacial Moraine 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

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  • Hans E. Suess

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