Philip Abelson

From Academic Kids

Philip Hauge Abelson (April 27, 1913 - August 1, 2004) was a physicist, editor of scientific literature, and science writer.

Philip Abelson was born in 1913 in Tacoma, Washington. As a young physicist, he collaborated with Nobel Prize winner Luis Alvarez in early nuclear research, and was the co-discoverer of the element Neptunium. He was a key contributor to the Manhattan Project during World War II. Although not formally associated with the atom bomb project, his invention of the Liquid Thermal Diffusion isotope separation technique proved a critical step in creating sufficient fuel for the weapon.

After the war, he turned his attention to applying nuclear power to naval propulsion. He wrote the first report detailing how a nuclear reactor could be installed in a submarine, providing both propulsion and electrical power. His report anticipated the nuclear submarine's role as a missile platform. His design was adopted as the basis for the USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear submarine. Dr. Abelson is known as the "Father of the Nuclear Submarine".

From 1951 until 1971 he served as the director of the Carnegie Institution of Washington's Geophysical Laboratory. From 1962 to 1984 he was editor of Science magazine, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and served as its acting Executive Officer in 1974, 1975 and 1984.

After 1984, he remained associated with the magazine. Some have claimed him to be an early skeptic of the case for global warming on the basis of a lead editorial in the magazine dated March 31, 1990. He wrote "[I]f the global warming situation is analyzed applying the customary standards of scientific inquiry one must conclude that there has been more hype than solid fact.". However, one editorial does not a skeptic make: in 1977 in the foreword for a US National Research Council, Energy and Environment report he wrote: What should the atmospheric carbon dioxide content be over the next century or two to achieve an optimum global climate?[1] (, implying a level of connection between CO2 and climate that would put him outside todays skeptic camp.

Dr. Abelson received many distinguished awards, including The President's National Medal of Science, the National Science Foundation's Distinguished Achievement Award, the American Medical Association's Science Achievement Award, and the Distinguished Civilian Service Medal.

Dr. Abelson's wife Neva Abelson (1910-2000) was a distinguished research physician who played a key role in developing the life-saving Rh blood factor test. Their daughter, Dr. Ellen Abelson Cherniavsky, now retired, worked as an aviation researcher at The MITRE Corporation in Virginia.

Dr. Abelson passed away on August 1, 2004 from respiratory complications following a brief illness.

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