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Frederick Soddy

Frederick SoddyBorn: 2-Sep-1877
Birthplace: Eastbourne, Sussex, England
Died: 22-Sep-1956
Location of death: Brighton, Sussex, England
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Chemist, Economist

Nationality: England
Executive summary: Isotopes

English chemist Frederick Soddy proposed in 1912 that the same elements exist in different forms, with nuclei having the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons. His theory of isotopes (a word he coined from the Greek, meaning "in the same place") explains that different elements can be chemically indistinguishable but have different atomic weights and characteristics. As an example, uranium 235 and uranium 238 are two different isotopes of the same element, uranium, one with 235 protons and neutrons in its nucleus, and the other with 238. In 1920 he showed the importance of isotopes in calculating geologic age, which led to development of carbon-14 dating. Soddy's theory of isotopes (now known to be true) was controversial among scientists until James Chadwick's discovery of the neutron in 1932.

His other work was also of importance in early 20th century chemistry. In collaboration with Ernest Rutherford in 1903 he showed how radioactive elements disintegrate, in a study that introduced the concept of "half-life" for radioactive decay. With Sir William Ramsay in the same year, he demonstrated that decaying radium produces helium. He is also credited for discovering the element protactinium in 1917.

Soddy gradually quit science in frustration after winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1921, and turned his attention to economics, arguing in papers and books that ethics and morality should be as fundamental as supply and demand in economics. He maintained that science had progressed enough to provide food and health care for all the world's inhabitants, but that the monetary system effectively prevents distribution of this abundance by peaceful means. In 1936 he retired, after the sudden death of his wife. They had no children, a factor Soddy attributed to exposure he had endured before the risk of radiation was fully understood.

Father: Benjamin Soddy (corn merchant, b. 1822, d. 1911)
Mother: Hannah Green Soddy
Brother: John Soddy (b. 1872)
Brother: Joseph Soddy (b. 1874)
Brother: Thomas Soddy (b. 1875)
Wife: Winifred Moller Beilby (m. 27-Mar-1908, d. 1936 thrombosis)

    High School: Eastbourne College, Eastbourne, UK
    University: University College of Wales, Aberystwyth (1895)
    University: BS Chemistry, Merton College, Oxford University (1898)
    Scholar: Chemistry, Oxford University (1898-99)
    Lecturer: Chemistry, McGill University (1900-03)
    Scholar: Chemistry, University College London (1903-04)
    Lecturer: Physical Chemistry, University of Glasgow (1904-14)
    Professor: Chemistry, University of Aberdeen (1914-19)
    Professor: Dr. Lees Professor of Chemistry, Oxford University (1919-36)

    Royal Society 1910
    Cannizzaro Prize of the Accademia dei Lincei 1913
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1921
    Economic Reform Club and Institute Co-Founder & Vice President (1936)
    Royal Society of Arts Albert Medal 1951
    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    Russian Academy of Sciences Foreign Member
    Lunar Crater Soddy (0.4 N, 121.8 E, 42 km. diameter)
    English Ancestry
    Risk Factors: Depression

Author of books:
Radioactivity (1904, chemistry)
The Interpretation of Radium (1909, chemistry)
The Chemistry of the Radioactive Elements (1912-14, chemistry)
Matter and Energy (1912, chemistry)
Science and Life (1920, chemistry)
Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt: The Solution of the Economic Paradox (1926, economics)
The Interpretation of the Atom (1932, chemistry)
Money versus Man (1933, economics)
The Role of Money: What It Should Be, Contrasted with What It Has Become (1934, economics)
The Story of Atomic Energy (1949, chemistry)
Atomic Transmutation (1953, chemistry)


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