Frank Spedding

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Frank Spedding
Born 22 October 1902
Hamilton, Ontario
Died 15 December 1984
Nationality United States
Institutions Cornell
Iowa State University
Ames Laboratory
Alma mater University of Michigan(1925)
University of California (Ph.D. 1929)
Known for Ames process
Influences Gilbert N. Lewis

Frank Harold Spedding (22 October 1902 – 15 December 1984) was a Canadian chemist. He was a renowned expert on rare earths and on extraction of metals from minerals. His uranium extraction process helped make it possible to build the first atomic bomb.

Early life and education[edit]

Spedding was born 22 October, 1902 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. His parents were Howard Leslie Spedding and Mary Ann Elizabeth Spedding. He attended the University of Michigan, receiving BS in chemical engineering in 1925 and an MS in analytical chemistry. He received his PhD in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1929.[1]


After graduation he worked at UC Berkeley and Cornell University. In 1937 he became an assistant professor and head of the department of physical chemistry at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. He was named a professor of chemistry in 1941, a professor of physics in 1950, and a professor of metallurgy in 1962.

He did pioneering work on rare earths and was "universally acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost experts on the identification and separation of rare earths".[1] He developed an ion exchange method of separating and purifying rare earth elements using ion exchange resins.

In 1941 he was asked to work on the research which later became known as the Manhattan Project and led to the development of the atomic bomb. He led a group of chemists at Iowa State University which developed an efficient process (known as the Ames process) for obtaining high purity uranium from uranium halides. Between 1942 and 1945 this process was used to produce two tons of pure uranium. Spedding was present at the University of Chicago to witness the first controlled atomic chain reaction.[1]

After World War II, Spedding founded the Institute of Atomic Research and the Ames Laboratory of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. He directed the Ames Laboratory from its founding in 1947 until 1968.

He later used ion exchange to separate isotopes of individual elements, including hundreds of grams of almost pure nitrogen-15.[2] He became professor emeritus in 1973.


He was awarded the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry in 1933 and awarded the Francis J. Clamer Medal in 1969.

An award called the Frank H. Spedding Award is presented at the annual Rare Earth Research Conference.[3]

His papers are housed in the Special Collections Department of Iowa State University.[4]


  1. ^ a b c "Biographical note" (PDF). Frank Spedding papers. Iowa State University. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  2. ^ Asimov, Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology 2nd Revised edition
  3. ^ "Spedding Award". Rare Earth Research Conference. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  4. ^ "Special Collections Department" (PDF). Iowa State University. Retrieved 30 October 2013. 
  • Corbett, John D. "Frank Harold Spedding". Biographical Memoirs National Academy of Sciences (National Academy of Sciences) 80. 

External links[edit]