Martin Kamen, the scientist who co-discovered the radioactive isotope carbon-14, died on 31 August at his home in Santa Barbara, California. He was 89 years old.
Kamen discovered carbon-14 in 1940 in collaboration with the late chemist Sam Ruben, when they bombarded graphite with protons in the cyclotron at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.
The utility of carbon-14 in biochemistry was "obvious right from the time of its discovery," said Bruno Zimm, Kamen's colleague since 1961 and Professor Emeritus at the Department of Chemistry, University of California, San Diego. "It was immediately clear that you could do things that you couldn't do in other ways," Zimm told
The use of carbon-14 as a tracer has transformed biochemistry by allowing chemical processes, such as photosynthesis, to be followed with relative ease. Archaeology has also benefited from the discovery through its use...