In 1941, with the world at war, brilliant physicists on both sides of the Atlantic struggled to produce an unimaginably powerful weapon that would tip the scales of victory, to the Axis or to the Allies. In Berkeley, California, a young chemist named Glenn Seaborg synthesized and isolated a new element unknown in nature --plutonium -- that made it possible for the United States to produce the first atomic bomb, and bring an end to World War II.
After the war, Glenn Seaborg re-drew the periodic table of elements, a matrix as essential to the study of chemistry as the multiplication table is to mathematics. Seaborg discovered ten new elements, more than any scientist in history, and synthesized hundreds of radioactive isotopes, with applications in everything from the treatment of cancer to the common household smoke detector.
Over the course of a career that included service as Chancellor of the University of California and Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, he advised ten U.S. Presidents, from Harry S. Truman to Bill Clinton, and drew the blueprint for America's long supremacy in scientific research. Although his youthful discoveries assured his country's victory in war, he devoted his own efforts for decades to nuclear disarmament and the peaceful use of atomic power.