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Chapter 2: High-Flux Years

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Samuel Colville Lind, called the father of radiation chemistry in America, came to the Laboratory in 1948 as a consultant after a long and distinguished career that was far from over. Author of 160 scientific articles, the first published in 1903 and the last in 1964, Lind's career began in Tennessee, took him to Europe at the turn of the century, and ended at the Laboratory in 1965.

Samuel Lind

A son of a Swedish immigrant, Lind received his early education in McMinnville, Tennessee. In 1895, he enrolled in the humanities program at Washington and Lee College, where he avoided science until senior requirements forced him to take chemistry. Lind's chemistry professor inspired him to return to the college after receiving his humanities degree to spend a fifth year studying chemistry. He then pursued the study of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Leipzig. Lind received his doctorate in 1905. 

During Lind's 10 years as a college student, the study of radioactivity was beginning in Europe. In 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X rays; in 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered the radioactivity of uranium; in 1897, J. J. Thomson discovered the electron; and in 1898, Marie and Pierre Curie discovered the radioactive elements radium and polonium.

Earning a university sabbatical, Lind went to France in 1910 to study the new phenomenon of radioactivity at the laboratory of Madame Curie, who received the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1911. The Curie laboratory, he wrote:

 consisted of about a dozen research rooms scattered over the ground floor, including a small shop and library. Only workers already having the Ph.D. degree were accepted. Madame Curie interviewed me in the little library and advised me to take a course of laboratory training in radioactivity from her first assistant, Dr. Debierne. This I did and at the same time attended Madame Curie's lectures on radioactivity at the Sorbonne. Her lectures were most interesting in tracing the history of the discovery of radium and polonium by herself and her late husband, Pierre Curie, and their subsequent studies of them. As was the custom for lectures by one of great distinction, her first few lectures were attended in her honor by many other scientists of high, established rank.

At the Curie laboratory, Lind collected radon from solutions of radium salts and used it to study alpha particles. In 1911, he departed for a radium institute in Vienna as a visiting scientist and worked there with Victor Hess, who later received the Nobel Prize for physics for his discovery of cosmic rays.

Returning to the United States in 1912, Lind could find no radium with which to continue his experiments with alpha particles. At the time, radium was so rare that it cost $120,000 per gram. Learning that the U.S. Bureau of Mines in Denver was recovering radium from Colorado ore for use in cancer therapy, Lind took a job there as a chemist in 1913, adopting Curie's fractional crystallization method to extract about 8.9 grams of radium worth nearly $1 million. 

The Bureau of Mines placed a half gram of radium in Lind's custody for research, and he carried it with him throughout his career, using it for many radiation studies with graduate students and other collaborators. He also carried some radium in his body as a result of an accident in Denver; his presence in a laboratory would sometimes set off radiation alarms.

After finishing his work for the Bureau of Mines in 1923, Lind went to Washington, D.C. as chief chemist of the Bureau of Mines and then as associate director of the Fixed Nitrogen Laboratory of the Department of Agriculture. In 1926 he moved to the University of Minnesota as director of the School of Chemistry and later as dean of the Institute of Technology. He retired in 1948 and came to Oak Ridge as a consultant to Clark Center, head of Carbide operations in Oak Ridge.

Most of his work naturally was concerned with research operations in Oak Ridge, and he spent most of his time at ORNL, particularly in the Chemistry Division. He even served as acting director of the division from 1951 to 1954. He continued his research and scientific publications, and at the age of 82 published, with Clarence Hochanadel and John Ghormley, a revision of his classic monograph, The Radiation Chemistry of Gases. Having been elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1930, he was the sole Laboratory staff member with that honor until the 1957 election of biologist Alexander Hollaender.

An active outdoorsman, Lind avidly fished for trout in streams near Oak Ridge. In 1965 at age 86, Lind drowned when caught by the rapidly rising water of the Clinch River below Norris Dam while fishing for trout. A colleague at the Laboratory remarked that, although his death was a great loss to his friends and associates: "We do, however, have the consolation that, both literally and figuratively, Samuel Colville Lind died with his boots on."

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