Although he was a chemist by training and occupation, Glenn T. Seaborg became one of the world’s best-known nuclear physicists. Early in his career, Seaborg was a pioneer in nuclear medicine and discovered isotopes of elements with important applications in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, most notably iodine-131, which is used in the treatment of thyroid disease.
Seaborg was the principal or co-discoverer of 9 elements on the periodic table: plutonium, americium, curium, berkelium, californium, einsteinium, fermium, mendelevium and nobelium. Element 106, which Seaborg did not create or discover, was named seaborgium in his honor. Until then, no element had been named after a living person.
He also discovered more than 100 atomic isotopes, or forms of elements, with differing numbers of neutrons in their nuclei, and is credited with important contributions to the chemistry of plutonium, originally as part of the Manhattan Project where he developed the extraction process used to isolate plutonium fuel for the second atomic bomb.
By Jen Santisi