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Fri, 05.31.1918

Lloyd Quarterman, Chemist born

Lloyd Quarterman

*Lloyd Quarterman was born on this date in 1918.  He was an African American chemist and scientist.

Born in Philadelphia, Lloyd Albert Quarterman developed an interest in chemistry from a young age partly by using toy chemistry sets his parents gave him.  He attended St. Augustine's College in Raleigh, North Carolina where he developed a reputation as a scholar and football player.

After receiving his bachelor's degree from St. Augustine’s in 1943, he was quickly recruited by the War Department to work on the Manhattan Project.  Though he was only a junior chemist on the project, Quarterman had the opportunity to work closely with Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago and with Albert Einstein at Columbia University.   Quarterman, Ralph Gardner and others were members  of the team of scientists who isolated the isotope of uranium (U 238) necessary for the fission process, which was essential to the creation of the atom bomb.

Dr. Quarterman worked at two of the major laboratories concerned with nuclear research, located at Columbia University in New York City and at Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, Illinois. When the Manhattan project was officially closed, Quarterman received a certificate of recognition for "work essential to the production of the Atomic Bomb, thereby contributing to the successful conclusion of World War II."   After the war, the hitherto secret facility at the University of Chicago officially became the Argonne National Laboratories.  It was at Argonne that Quarterman worked with Fermi.  Argonne was the center for the design and development of nuclear reactors. Quarterman worked as a member of a team of scientists, contributing to the first full-scale use of controlled nuclear energy. At Argonne, they made the first reactor for Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine.

Not content to rest on his laurels, Quarterman augmented his knowledge of chemistry and physics and worked as a fluoride chemist. Working with a team that "led the world in fluoride chemistry," they created new compounds or, as he puts it, "invented molecules" from the reaction of fluorine atoms with "noble" gases (so called because they stood on their own)—xenon, argon and krypton.  Quarterman was also involved in spectroscopy. He devised a corrosive-resistant "diamond window" to study the complex molecular structure of hydrogen fluoride, the world's most powerful solvent. Modestly, he chose not to call it an invention, but "a first discovery trial."  He had also given some serious thought to "synthetic blood" but he stated that "[his] process never got off the ground... [as he] ran into socio-political problems."

He was a member of Sigma Xi, the American Chemistry Society, the Society of Applied Spectroscopy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Scientific Research Society of America, and the Chicago branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  Lloyd Quarterman died in Chicago, Illinois in July of 1982.

To become a Chemist and Materials Scientist

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