Harold C. Urey (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Urey discovered deuterium, the heavy isotope of hydrogen, as well as methods of isotope separation. He founded the modern science of cosmochemistry, devoted to understanding the origin and development of the solar system.
Harold Clayton Urey’s life and career spanned a period of rapid change and development in the United States and the world. He grew up as a country boy, first in Indiana and later in Montana. By his own account, he was seventeen years old when he first saw an automobile; less than sixty years later, he held in his hand a rock from the surface of the moon, of which he was by then the leading student.
Growing up in the country and living mainly outdoors as an adolescent undoubtedly contributed to the rugged good health and stamina that he exhibited throughout his long life. At the same time, it did slow his entry into the world of scientific research. After he was graduated from high school, he did not go directly to college but spent three years as a teacher in country schools, one of which was a one-room school of the sort long since relegated to folklore. He was inspired by a friend to enter the University of Montana, where he majored in biology. He had to work to stay in college; this included periods as a waiter, as a construction worker, and finally as an instructor of biology. When the United States entered World War I, Urey found a job as an industrial...
(The entire section is 2396 words.)
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