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Edwin M. McMillan

Edwin M. McMillanAKA Edwin Mattison McMillan

Born: 18-Sep-1907
Birthplace: Redondo Beach, CA
Died: 7-Sep-1991
Location of death: El Cerrito, CA
Cause of death: Diabetes complications

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

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Discovered neptunium and plutonium

American physicist Edwin M. McMillan discovered the first transuranium (heavier than uranium) element, named neptunium, in 1940, working with Philip Abelson (1913-2004). In the same year, working under Glenn Seaborg and with Joseph W. Kennedy (1916-57) and Arthur C. Wahl (1917-2006), he discovered plutonium. Due to national security concerns, no public announcement of these discoveries was made until several years after the end of World War II. McMillan and Seaborg shared the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1951.

As a teenager McMillan was fascinated with science, and audited classes at California Institute of Technology, which was near his home. He studied under Edward Condon, and his first scientific paper was on the topic of x-rays, and co-authored by Linus Pauling. He worked on the development of radar during the early months of World War II, and later joined the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic weapons. In 1945 he introduced the theory of phase stability, which made possible the development of the next generation of high energy particle accelerators.

His father-in-law, George Blumer (1872-1962), was dean of the medical school at Yale. His sister-in-law, Molly Blumer (1910-2003) was married to Nobel laureate Ernest Lawrence, namesake of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where McMillan spent most of his career, and which he headed from 1958-73, after Lawrence's death. His interests beyond science included exploring the Borrego Desert and growing Venus Fly Traps. He was also proud of his Scottish ancestry, active in the formation of the Clan MacMillan Society of North America, and served as its first President in 1958.

Father: Edwin Harbaugh McMillan (physician)
Mother: Anne Marie Mattison McMillan
Wife: Elsie Walford Blumer (m. 7-Jun-1941, one daughter, two sons)
Daughter: Ann Bradford McMillan Chaikin (b. 1943)
Son: David Mattison McMillan (b. 1945)
Son: Stephen Walker McMillan (b. 1949)

    High School: Pasadena High School, Pasadena, CA (1924)
    University: BS Physics, California Institute of Technology (1928)
    University: MS Physics, California Institute of Technology (1929)
    University: PhD Physics, Princeton University (1932)
    Scholar: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1932-35)
    Teacher: Physics, University of California at Berkeley (1935-46)
    Professor: Physics, University of California at Berkeley (1946-73)
    Scholar: Radiation Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1940-41)
    Scholar: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1954-58)
    Administrator: Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1958-73)

    US Navy Radio and Sound Laboratory, San Diego (1941-42)
    Manhattan Project (1942-45)
    Research Corporation Award 1950
    Nobel Prize for Chemistry 1951 (with Glenn Seaborg)
    Atoms for Peace Award 1963 (with Vladimir Veksler)
    National Medal of Science 1990
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Physical Society
    American Philosophical Society
    CERN
    International Union of Pure and Applied Physics
    National Academy of Sciences Chairman (1968-71)
    National Research Council Fellowship (1932)
    RAND Corporation
    Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society
    Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society
    US Atomic Energy Commission General Advisory Committee (1954-58)
    Scottish Ancestry
    Stroke 1984
    Risk Factors: Diabetes


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