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Frederick Soddy
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    (September 2, 1877-September 22, 1956)
    Born in Eastbourne, England, United Kingdom
    Showed that uranium decays to radium (1914)
    Showed the existence of isotopes (elements that exist with different atomic masses but the same chemical properties) among radioactive elements
    Won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry (1921)
    He said that atomic power would ‘make the whole world one smiling Garden of Eden.’
    After winning the Nobel Prize, he largely gave up on science and devoted himself to trying to apply the laws of thermodynamics to economics.
    He cited the notorious anti-Semitic hoax ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ as evidence of ‘a financial conspiracy to enslave the world.’
    The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry considered naming an element after him, but decided that ‘soddyum’ would sound too similar to the already existing ‘sodium.’
    His mother died when he was two and he was raised by his half-sister.
    He coined the word ‘isotope.’
    He suggested that, once rates of radioactive decay were known, it would be possible to use the ratios of radioactive to nonradioactive isotopes in fossils to determine their age, inspiring Willard Libby to develop carbon dating.
    Although his economic ideas were dismissed as the work of a crank at the time, several of his ideas – including abandoning the gold standard, letting exchange rates between currencies float freely, and using government deficits and surpluses to counter economic cycles – became conventional practice.
    His essays explaining radioactivity to the public inspired H.G. Wells’ novel ‘The World Set Free.’

Credit: C. Fishel

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