Who created radiocarbon dating
One application was a timetable of climate changes for tens of thousands of years back.
Many of the traditional chronologies turned out to be far less accurate than scientists had believed a bitter blow for some who had devoted decades of their lives to the work.
It was an anxious time for scientists whose reputation for accurate work was on the line.
But what looks like unwelcome noise to one specialist may contain information for another.
By 1950, Willard Libby and his group at the University of Chicago had worked out ways to measure this proportion precisely.
Their exquisitely sensitive instrumentation was originally developed for studies in entirely different fields including nuclear physics, biomedicine, and detecting fallout from bomb tests.(1) Much of the initial interest in carbon-14 came from archeology, for the isotope could assign dates to Egyptian mummies and the like.
This was all the usual sort of laboratory problem-solving, a matter of sorting out difficulties by studying one or another detail systematically for months.
Thus the less of it that remained in an object, in proportion to normal carbon, the older the object was.
Also, the Sun’s own magnetic field varies with the cycle, and that could change the way cosmic particles bombarded the Earth.
In 1961, Minze Stuiver suggested that longer-term solar variations might account for the inconsistent carbon-14 dates. Libby, for one, cast doubt on the idea, so subversive of the many dates his team had supposedly established with high accuracy.(9) Suess and Stuiver finally pinned down the answer in 1965 by analyzing hundreds of wood samples dated from tree rings.
In 1958, Hessel de Vries in the Netherlands showed there were systematic anomalies in the carbon-14 dates of tree rings.
His explanation was that the concentration of carbon-14 in the atmosphere had varied over time (by up to one percent).