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Harold Urey
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Scientist
    (April 29, 1893-January 5, 1981)
    Born in Walkerton, Indiana
    Discovered deuterium, a 'heavy' isotope of hydrogen (1932)
    Received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery (1934)
    Later discovered isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur
    Worked in the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb
    Developed gaseous diffusion techniques to separate weapons-grade uranium (U-235) from the more abundant uranium isotope, U-238
    With grad student Stanley Miller, devised the Miller-Urey experiment showing that gases from the earth's early atmosphere could react to produce amino acids, one of the building blocks of life (1953)
    Considered a founder of the field of chemical cosmology: the study of the chemical composition of the matter in the universe and the processes responsible
    Consultant to NASA concerning lunar probes and missions
    Analyzed lunar samples collected by Apollo 11
    He isolated deuterium on Thanksgiving. (Although as an excuse to avoid helping with the meal, 'I'm performing an experiment that will win me a Nobel Prize' beats the snot out of 'But the Lions are about to kickoff.')
    He said he had hoped deuterium 'might have the practical use of, say, neon in neon signs' and was disappointed that its largest uses were in hydrogen bombs and nuclear energy.
    He was one of several Manhattan Project scientists who, after working to create an atomic bomb, suddenly opposed its use.
    A lot of his theories about the moon were disproved by the Apollo missions.
    He was married to Freida Daum for 54 years.
    He expected that lunar exploration would give him 'a very red face,' noting 'Nature can always be more complicated than we imagine.'
    Although he campaigned for an international ban on nuclear weapons, he said the US should never disarm unilaterally.
    Fellow Nobel Prize winner Glenn Seaborg called him 'a brilliantly innovative scientist whose mind seemed at home in dozens of very different disciplines.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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