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Biography of Clair Cameron Patterson, 1998

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Courtesy of National Academy of Sciences, Tilton, George R., "Claire Cameron Patterson: 1922-1995," 1998


This National Academy of Sciences document is the biography of Claire Cameron Patterson, an American geochemist. Patterson was born in Mitchellville, Iowa, who spent his entire professional career at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). In collaboration with George Tilton, Patterson developed the uranium–lead dating method into lead–lead dating. Using his technique, Patterson was able to calculate the age of the Earth at 4.55 billion years, which was a figure far more accurate than those that existed at the time.


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Source-Dependent Questions

  • What was the main focus of Clair Patterson's research? What is he known for discovering? How did he discover it?
  • As a by-product of his work, what else did Patterson discover which has had a major impact on societies around the world?
  • What controversies did Patterson face during his research? In what ways did these issues highlight the way humans were impacting the Earth?

Citation Information 

Tilton, George R., "Claire Cameron Patterson: 1922-1995," 1998. Courtesy of National Academy of Sciences