Martin Kamen

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Martin David Kamen (August 27, 1913, Toronto – August 31, 2002), a physicist inside the Manhattan project. Together with Sam Ruben, he co-discovered the isotope carbon-14 on February 27, 1940, at the University of California Radiation Laboratory, Berkeley.

Contents

Biography

Kamen was born August 27, 1913 in Toronto, the son of Russian immigrants. He grew up in Chicago. He received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Chicago in 1933 and obtained a PhD in physical chemistry from the same university in 1936. Thereafter he sought a research position in chemistry and nuclear physics under Ernest Lawrence at the radiation laboratory in Berkeley, where he worked without pay for six months until being hired to oversee the preparation and distribution of the cyclotron's products. The discovery of carbon-14 occurred at Berkeley when Kamen and Ruben bombarded graphite in the cyclotron in hopes of producing a radioactive isotope of carbon that could be used as a tracer in investigating chemical reactions in photosynthesis. Their experiment resulted in production of carbon-14.

In 1943 Kamen was assigned to Manhattan Project work at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he worked briefly before returning to Berkeley. He was fired from Berkeley in 1945 after being accused of leaking nuclear weapons secrets to Russia, and for a time was unable to obtain an academic position, until being hired by Arthur Holly Compton to run the cyclotron program in the medical school of Washington University at St. Louis. Kamen taught the faculty how to use radioactive tracer materials in research, and his own interests gradually shifted into biochemistry.

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