martin david kamen

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martin david kamen

Canadian-born chemist (b. Aug. 27, 1913, Toronto, Ont.-d. Aug. 31, 2002, Santa Barbara, Calif.), discovered (1940), with Samuel Ruben, radioactive carbon-14. Kamen was later shunned by the scientific community, however, owing to false suspicions that he was a Soviet agent. After earning a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, Kamen worked at the radiation laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. While seeking a long-lived radioactive carbon tracer for photosynthesis research, Kamen and Ruben bombarded graphite in a cyclotron. Their result was the isotope carbon-14, with a half-life of 5,730 years. The availability of the isotope paved the way for key advances in biochemistry, and the later discovery of naturally occurring carbon-14 revolutionized archaeology through the use of radiocarbon dating. In 1995 Kamen was honoured with the Enrico Fermi Award for his lifetime achievements in energy research.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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