December 17, 1908, Grand Valley (United States) – September 8, 1980, Los Angeles (United States)
In 1931, he received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley and a Ph.D. in 1933. He then began his teaching career for 10 years, after which he obtained a fellowship from the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation with which he worked at Princeton University. However, in 1941, he had to discontinue his scholarship during World War II as he was called upon to collaborate on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University, developing the procedure for separating and enriching the isotopes of uranium-235. .
In 1943 he was appointed professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago where he remained until his appointment by President Dwight. D. Eisenhower, in 1954, as a member of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) of the United States.
In 1947, the team of researchers led by W. F. Libby developed the carbon 14 dating technique, popularly known as the "atomic recorder clock", which became an indispensable instrument for archaeology, physical anthropology and geology; It is a method to determine the geological age of organic objects, or those that contain carbon, by measuring the amount contained in them of the unstable radioactive isotope C -14 of carbon.
In 1952, he exposed the details of this technique in the book "Radiocarbon dating" ("Radiocarbon dating"). The development of this radioactive dating method, which has a validity limit of approximately 70,000 years, earned him the 1960 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
In 1959, he resigned that position to return to teaching chemistry as a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, although from 1960 to 1962 he remained a member of the AEC's general advisory committee. He also resigned in 1962 when he was appointed director of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics.
Throughout his career he received awards, medals and even an asteroid discovered on March 6, 1986 bears his name.