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Leona Woods

AKA Leona Harriet Woods

Born: 9-Aug-1919
Birthplace: LaGrange, IL
Died: 10-Nov-1986
Location of death: Santa Monica, CA
Cause of death: Cancer - unspecified

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Physicist at University of Chicago

American physicist Leona Woods (sometimes cited as Leona Marshall or Leona Libby) graduated from high school at 14 and earned her degree in physics from the University of Chicago when she was 18. She studied under Enrico Fermi and Robert S. Mulliken, and was the only woman among the fifty members of Fermi's "Pile One" team that built the world's first artificial nuclear reactor. She was the most accomplished scientist among the handful of women who worked on the Manhattan Project, selected due to her expertise in the physics and mechanisms necessary for creating vacuums needed for boron trifluoride counters, which in turn are necessary for measuring neutrons and creating a nuclear chain reaction. She oversaw design and construction of the project's neutron detectors, and was present for the first nuclear chain reaction on 2 December 1942 at the University of Chicago.

In her long career she studied climatology, diatomic molecular spectroscopy, fundamental particle physics, the general structure and evolution of the universe, quantum chemistry, and quasars. She was an outspoken advocate of nuclear power, and maintained that its safety was supported by the birth of her two healthy children from pregnancies while she was working intimately with nuclear reactors. Her first husband, physicist John Marshall Jr, was a physicist at the University of Chicago and a great-great-great-grandson of US Supreme Court Justice John Marshall. Her second husband, Willard F. Libby, won the Nobel Prize in 1960 for his development of the carbon-14 dating technique.

Father: Weightstill Arno Woods (attorney, b. 10-Jun-1885)
Mother: Mary Leona Holderness Woods (teacher, b. 1-Nov-1890)
Husband: John Marshall, Jr. (physicist, b. 1917, m. 3-Jul-1943, div. 1966, d. 1997, two sons)
Son: Peter Marshall (b. 1944)
Son: John Marshall (b. 1949)
Husband: Willard F. Libby (chemist, b. 17-Dec-1908, m. 9-Dec-1966, d. 8-Sep-1980)
Daughter: Janet Eva Libby (stepdaughter, b. 1945)
Daughter: Susan Charlotte Libby (stepdaughter, b. 1945)

    High School: Lyons Township High School, LaGrange, IL (1934)
    University: BS Physics, University of Chicago (1938)
    University: MS Physics, PhD, University of Chicago (1940)
    University: PhD Physics, University of Chicago (1943)
    Scholar: Nuclear Physics, University of Chicago (1946-53)
    Teacher: Physics, University of Chicago (1953-57)
    Scholar: Institute for Advanced Study (1957-58)
    Scholar: Brookhaven National Laboratory (1958-60)
    Teacher: Atomic and Nuclear Physics, New York University (1960-64)
    Teacher: University of Colorado at Boulder (1964-70)
    Professor: Environmental Science and Engineering, University of California at Los Angeles (1970-)

    RAND Corporation Physics Researcher (1963-70)
    Physical Review Editorial Board (1960-62)
    Institute for Advanced Study (1957-58)
    Manhattan Project at Hanford Plutonium Production Plant (1944-45)
    Manhattan Project at University of Chicago (1942-44)
    American Physical Society
    National Science Foundation
    Royal Geographical Society
    Irish Ancestry Paternal
    Venusian geography Libby Patera (34.5 S, 199.5 E, 90 km. diameter)

Author of books:
Carbon Dioxide and Climate (1979, non-fiction)
The Uranium People (1979, memoir)
Past Climates: Tree Thermometers, Commodities, and People (1983, non-fiction)


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