“What professor Libby discovered here at the Kent Chemical Laboratories is important much as to the field of chemistry, but continues to have profound effects for our understanding in a whole variety of different areas, obviously archaeology, geology, paleontology, and fundamentally how we view the long history of human civilization.” The program also included two short lectures by UChicago professors, which further elaborated on the significance Libby’s work.
Archaeologists use the exponential, radioactive decay of carbon 14 to estimate the death dates of organic material.
The stable form of carbon is carbon 12 and the radioactive isotope carbon 14 decays over time into nitrogen 14 and other particles.
In the case of radiocarbon dating, the half-life of carbon 14 is 5,730 years.
This half life is a relatively small number, which means that carbon 14 dating is not particularly helpful for very recent deaths and deaths more than 50,000 years ago.
According to Diane Grob Schmidt, the immediate past president of the ACS, every subject submitted for landmark consideration must fulfill three criteria: it must be more than 25 years old, it must represent a “seminal achievement” in chemistry, and it must have a significant contribution to society.
As she presented the plaque, Schmidt said that beyond fulfilling the criteria, Libby’s work is “a fantastic example of the transforming power of chemistry” because of its profound effects on not only areas of study but also “on ourselves” by providing a fuller understanding of our past.The dedication took place at Kent Chemical Laboratory, the building in which professor Willard F.Libby made the discovery that would earn him the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.There’s probably no need to rewrite the history books, but it’s likely that they contain some incorrectly dated excavation sites, Associate Professor Felix Riede told Aarhus University’s newsletter This is due to the fact that fish contain less of the radioactive substance Carbon 14 if they have lived in hard water.Hard water contains high levels of calcium carbonate. However, depending on ocean water circulation, fish and other living creatures can incorporate 'older' carbonate (with less carbon-14) into their bodies.When an organism dies it ceases to replenish carbon in its tissues and the decay of carbon 14 to nitrogen 14 changes the ratio of carbon 12 to carbon 14.