This Day In History: 2004-08-01

Philip Hauge Abelson, an American physical chemist who proposed the gas diffusion process for separating uranium-235 from uranium-238 which was essential to the development of the atomic bomb, died aged 91. In collaboration with the U.S. physicist Edwin M. McMillan, he discovered a new element, later named neptunium, produced by irradiating uranium with neutrons. At the end WW II, his report on the feasibility of building a nuclear-powered submarine gave birth to the U.S. program in that field. In 1946, Abelson returned to the Carnegie Institution and pioneered in utilizing radioactive isotopes. As director of the Geophysics Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution (1953-71), he found amino acids in fossils, and fatty acids in rocks more than 1,000,000,000 years old.