Philip H. Abelson

American Association for the Advancement of Science

April 27, 1913 - August 1, 2004


Election Year: 1959
Scientific Discipline: Geology
Membership Type: Member

Nuclear physicist Philip Abelson played a major role in the discovery of the element neptunium, contributed significantly to the development of nuclear submarines, and in his twenty-two years as editor of the journal Science, shaped the discussion of major issues facing the scientific community. As a graduate student in 1939, Abelson made an early verification of nuclear fission.

In 1933 Abelson received his bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Washington State University. Two years later, he earned a master’s degee in physics from Washington State University; he earned his PhD in nuclear physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1939. From 1953 to 1971, he served as the director of the Geophysical Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution of Washington and implemented its first organic geochemistry program. Abelson served as the editor of the journal Science from 1962 to 1984. From 1971 until 1978, he served as president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

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