Donald D. Clayton

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Donald D. Clayton

Donald Delbert Clayton (born 1935) is an American astrophysicist whose most visible achievement was prediction on sound nucleosynthesis grounds that supernovae are intensely radioactive. This opened a host of astronomical problems that depend on that radioactivity. For the many significant consequences of that discovery he was awarded the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (1992) for “theoretical astrophysics related to the formation of (chemical) elements in the explosions of stars and to the observable products of these explosions”. Supernovae became the most important stellar events in astronomy owing to their profoundly radioactive nature. Clayton's wider works lay foundations for five subfields of astrophysical research: (1) nucleosynthesis, the assembly of the atomic nuclei of the common chemical elements by nuclear reactions within the stars; (2) astronomy of gamma-ray lines emitted by radioactive atoms ejected by supernovae; (3) growth in time of the interstellar abundances of the chemical elements, especially of their radioactive isotopes, owing to births and deaths of stars; (4) existence within interstellar cosmic dust of isotopically identifiable solid grains from gaseous stars; (5) how gaseous carbon can condense as solid carbon grains within hot, oxygen-rich radioactive supernova gases. Clayton spearheaded these fields in works from research positions at California Institute of Technology (1956–63; 1966–67), Rice University (1963–89), Cambridge University (1967–74), Max-Plank Institute for Nuclear Physics (1977–83), and Clemson University (1989-2016) during an international academic career spanning six decades. Clayton has authored four books for the public: a novel The Joshua Factor (1985) is a parable of the origin of mankind and the mystery of solar neutrinos; a science autobiography Catch a Falling Star;[1] a mid-career memoir The Dark Night Sky,[2] of cultural interest owing to Clayton's conception of it in 1970 as layout for a movie[1]:245–249 with Italian filmmaker Roberto Rosselini [3] about a cosmological life (See Personal below); Handbook of Isotopes in the Cosmos (Cambridge Univ. Press 2003) describing in simple words the nuclear origin of each isotope of our natural elements. Clayton has published on the web Photo Archive for the History of Nuclear Astrophysics from his personal photographs and his researched captions recording photographic history during research in nuclear astrophysics.[4]

National honors[edit]

Clayton was elected to Phi Beta Kappa during his third year as a student at Southern Methodist University. He was awarded many supporting fellowships: National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow (1956–58); Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow (1966–68); Fulbright Fellow (1979–80); Fellow of St. Mary's College, Durham University (1987);[12] SERC Senior Visiting Fellow, The Open University, Milton Keynes, U.K. (1993). In 1993 Clayton was named Distinguished Alumnus of Southern Methodist University,[13] 37 years after his BS degree there.

Early life and education[edit]

Donald D. Clayton was born on March 18, 1935 in a modest rented duplex on Walnut Street in Shenandoah, Iowa while his parents were there seeking work during the Great Depression. They were temporarily away from both family farms near Fontanelle in Adair County in southwestern Iowa, farms to which they often returned. Clayton spent much childhood on those farms and has rhapsodized over his love of the farm.[1]:1–6 Young Clayton attended public school in Texas, however, after his father's new job moved them to Dallas in 1940 as co-pilot for Braniff Airlines. Fortunately, his parents obtained a home in the already renowned Highland Park School System, providing him an excellent education. His description of his advantage from High School is revealing.[14] He graduated third in his 1953 class of 92 students[15] from Highland Park High School. The first among his entire Iowa relations, including his father, to seek any post-high-school education, Clayton matriculated and excelled in physics and mathematics, graduating from Southern Methodist University summa cum laude in 1956. At his professor's urging he was accepted as a physics research student by California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which he attended bearing a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship. In the 1957 nuclear physics course at Caltech Clayton learned from William Alfred Fowler about a new theory that the chemical elements had been assembled within the stars by nuclear reactions occurring there. He was captivated for life by that idea[2]:112–114 Clayton completed his Ph.D. Thesis in 1961 on the evolution of the abundances of the elements owing to their slow capture of free neutrons (the s process) in stars. Clayton and his wife Mary Lou[16] played a small role in producing the celebrated Feynman Lectures on Physics by converting the taped audio of Richard Feynman's lectures to prose. Caltech also afforded Clayton the chance to meet and later become a lifelong friend of Fred Hoyle, British cosmologist and creator of the nuclear theory of nucleosynthesis in stars. Collaborations with Fowler (1983 Nobel Laureate in Physics) as Fowler's[17] research student (1957–60) and as Fowler's post-doctoral research associate (1961–63) launched Clayton's scientific career. He established himself as a post-Hoyle leader of nucleosynthesis in stars by calculating the first time-dependent models of both the s-process and the fast neutron-capture chains (r-process) of heavy-element nucleosynthesis and of the nuclear abundance quasiequilibrium that establishes the highly radioactive abundances between silicon and nickel during silicon burning in stars. He came onto the field early, at a time when nucleosynthesis was a vibrant, modern topic. Citations to this work are in the Nucleosynthesis section below.

Academic history[edit]

Following a two-year (1961–63) postdoctoral research fellowship at Caltech, Clayton claimed an Assistant Professorship as one of the four founding faculty members in Rice University's newly created Department of Space Science (later renamed Space Physics and Astronomy). There he initiated a graduate-student course explaining nuclear reactions in stars as the mechanism for the creation of the atoms of the chemical elements. His textbook based on that course ( Principles of Stellar Evolution and Nucleosynthesis, McGraw-Hill 1968) earned ongoing praise. Today, 47 years after its first publication, it is still in common usage[18] in graduate education throughout the world. Clayton was awarded the newly endowed Andrew Hays Buchanan Professorship of Astrophysics at Rice in 1968 and held that endowed professorship for twenty years until moving to Clemson University in 1989. At Rice University in the 1970s, Clayton guided Ph.D. theses of many students who achieved renown, especially Stanford E. Woosley, William Michael Howard, H. C. Goldwire, Richard A. Ward, Michael J. Newman, Eliahu Dwek, Mark Leising and Kurt Liffman. Senior thesis students at Rice University included Bradley S. Meyer and Lucy Ziurys, both of whom forged distinguished careers in the subjects of those senior theses. Good historical photos of several students can be seen on Clayton' s photo archive for the history of nuclear astrophysics.[19]

In 1966 letters from W.A. Fowler unexpectedly invited Clayton to return to Caltech in order to coauthor a book on nucleosynthesis with Fowler and Fred Hoyle. In his autobiography Clayton quotes these letters.[20] He accepted; but while resident at Caltech Clayton was invited by Hoyle to Cambridge University (UK) in spring 1967 to advise a research program in nucleosynthesis at Hoyle's newly created Institute of Astronomy. The award to Clayton of a prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship (1966–68) facilitated leaves of absence from Rice University for this purpose. Clayton exerted that research leadership in Cambridge during 1967-72 by bringing his research students from Rice University with him. That prolific period ended abruptly by Hoyle's unexpected resignation in 1972.[21] Clayton was during these years a Visiting Fellow of Clare Hall. At Rice University W.D. Arnett, Woosley, Howard and Clayton published jointly numerous innovative studies on the topic of explosive supernova nucleosynthesis.[22] During his Cambridge years Clayton proposed[23] radioactive gamma-ray-emitting nuclei as nucleosynthesis targets for gamma-ray astronomy of line transitions from radioactive nuclei with coauthors (Stirling Colgate, Gerald J. Fishman, and Joseph Silk). Detection of these gamma-ray lines two decades later provided the decisive proof that iron had been synthesized explosively in supernovae in the form of radioactive nickel isotopes rather than as iron itself, as Fowler and Hoyle had both advocated. That paper was designated one of the fifty most influential papers in astronomy during the twentieth century[24] by the American Astronomical Society.

During a later seven-year period (1977–84) Clayton resided about 1/3 time at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg as Humboldt Prize awardee on multiple academic leaves from Rice University. There he joined the Meteoritical Society seeking audience for his newly published theoretical picture[25] of a new type of astronomy based on relative abundances of the isotopes of the chemical elements within interstellar dust grains. He hoped that such interstellar grains could be discovered within meteorites;[26] but he also advanced a theory that he called cosmic chemical memory [27] by which the effects of stardust can be measured in meteoritic minerals even if stardust itself no longer exists there. Clayton designated the crystalline component of interstellar dust that had condensed thermally from hot and cooling stellar gases by a new scientific name, stardust. Stardust became an important component of cosmic dust. Clayton has described[28] the stiff resistance encountered from meteoriticist referees of his early papers advancing this new theory. He nonetheless established that research program at Rice University, where he continued guiding graduate-student research. He and student Kurt Liffman computed a pathbreaking history of refractory dust in the interstellar medium[29] and with student Mark D. Leising a propagation model of positron annihilation lines from nova explosions[30] and of the angular distribution of gamma ray lines from radioactive 26Al in the galaxy.[31] Following laboratory discovery in 1987 of meteoritic stardust bearing unequivocal isotopic markers, Clayton was awarded the 1991 Leonard Medal, highest honor of the Meteoritical Society, sixteen years after the refereeing battles over his first papers on stardust. Feeling vindicated,[32] Clayton exulted in Nature "the human race holds solid samples of supernovae in its hands and studies them in terrestrial laboratories".[33]

In 1989 Clayton surprised academia by accepting a professorship at Clemson University to develop a graduate research program in astrophysics there.[34] This academic segment of his career (1989–present) focused initially on hiring three young astrophysicists [35] and their joint research with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, which was launched in 1991 after several delays and whose instruments successfully detected gamma rays identifying several of the radioactive nuclei that Clayton had predicted in exploding stars. At Rice University Clayton had been named Co-Investigator on the NASA proposal for the Oriented Scintillation Spectrometer Experiment OSSE, one of the four successful instruments carried into orbit by Space Shuttle Atlantis. Simultaneously Clayton developed at Clemson his stardust research featuring annual workshops.[36] The initial NASA sponsored workshop at Clemson University in 1990 was so lively that it was repeated the next year jointly with Washington University (St. Louis) cosponsorship, and in later years cosponsored also by the University of Chicago and by the Carnegie Institution of Washington. These workshops featured the excitement of new isotopic discoveries, but also helped participants focus their ideas for submission of abstracts to NASA's Lunar and Planetary Science Conference. Otherwise participants' workshop discussions were not shared or publicized. Later a unique new goal for Clayton became to assemble from his large personal collection of professional photographs a web-based archive for the history of nuclear astrophysics[37] and to donate the originals [38] to the Center for the History of Physics.[39] Following his retirement from academic duties in 2007, Clayton published his scientific autobiography,Catch a Falling Star.[1] Clayton's published refereed research papers are listed at


Clayton married three times, first in 1954 in Dallas[40] to Mary Lou Keesee (deceased 1981, Houston) while they were students at SMU;[41] second, in 1972 in St. Blasien he married in Germany a young German woman, Annette Hildebrand, while residing in Heidelberg (divorced 1981, Houston).[42] Clayton remarried in 1983 in the Rice University Chapel the former Nancy Eileen McBride,[43] who was trained in art and in architecture and is today an artist.[44] Clayton's life as Assistant Professor at Rice University 1963-66 was devoted to buying a family home, schooling for his children, and to building his academic experience and credentials.[45] He was promoted through the academic ranks at Rice, until 1989 when he transferred to a professorship at Clemson University in South Carolina, residing today with Nancy in historic G. W. Gignilliat House (1898) in Seneca, South Carolina (pop. 8,000), seven miles from the city of Clemson. They jointly have one son (Andrew), born in 1987 in Houston. Clayton's three previous children arose from his earlier marriages. A son (Donald Douglas Clayton b.1960, Pasadena CA) lives in Houston and a daughter (Alia Clayton Fisher b.1977, Houston) lives with her husband and four children in Longmont, Colorado. Another son, Devon Clayton (b. 1961 Pasadena), died in 1996 in Seneca SC. Clayton has one brother and two sisters, each still resident in Texas, two of them also born in Iowa. Clayton's mother was born on a farm in Fontanelle IA to parents (Kembery and Keisel)[46] that had lived their entire lives on Fontanelle farms. Their own parents had immigrated to Iowa near 1850, one from England (Thomas Kembery) and one from Germany (William Keisel). Clayton's father was also born on a Fontanelle farm to English parents (Paul Clayton and Verna Porter) having one Dutch grandparent (Yerkes). Two of Clayton's great grandfathers (Kembery and Clayton) fought in the Civil War (North). Robert M. Clayton fought in Sherman's Army at the battle of Atlanta.[47] In 1969 at Rice University Clayton was introduced by patron of the arts Dominique de Menil to Italian filmmaker Roberto Rosselini, and they conceived of a film about one scientist's deepening realizations during a cosmological life, a sequence of experiences which Clayton proposed [48] to provide for that project. In summer 1970 he spent two weeks in Rome working daily with Rosselini [3][49] on that effort, which failed owing to insufficient financial support or to insufficiently theatrical plan.[50] Clayton's published memoir "The Dark Night Sky: a personal adventure in cosmology"[51] laid out his plan for that film.

Citations of research leadership[edit]

Donald D. Clayton's research innovations in astrophysics and planetary science lay in five disciplines. Clayton's own history of each within his autobiography, Catch a Falling Star,[52] is given at ends of the following sections. The references in each are to noteworthy seminal published papers by Clayton (names of his co-authors can be read from his publication list).[53] Clayton's independent style can be seen from his publication list, being author of an unusual 120 single-author research papers, the latest in 2013.[54] Sole-author research papers are relatively rare in astrophysics.

Nuclear physics origin of the chemical elements (Nucleosynthesis)[edit]

Trained as a nuclear physicist by Wm. A. Fowler at Caltech, Clayton was well positioned to consider the interactions of heavy nuclei with neutrons which were believed by Fowler to govern the nucleosynthesis of nuclei heavier than iron. He calculated the isotopic abundances produced by neutron irradiation of iron in stars for both the S-process and the R-process of heavy-element stellar nucleosynthesis (processes first defined by B2FH[55]). Clayton's two papers (in 1961 and 1965) demonstrated that solar-system abundances had been created not by a single irradiation but as superpositions of abundance patterns established in multiple presolar stars by differing neutron irradiations.[56] Clayton's 1961 calculations, achieved prior to adequate computers by mathematical analysis, established Clayton as a nucleosynthesis theorist. They provided standard models that guided four decades of progress on the s process. In 1967 Clayton turned to the supernova origin of the abundances of elements that can be created in stars from only their hydrogen and helium. Those so-called primary nucleosynthesis nuclei having atomic weights between silicon and nickel (A=28-62) are very abundant. To understand their dramatic alternating abundances he advanced a new conceptual tool that he named nuclear quasiequilibrium during silicon burning.[57] That concept explained the observed numbers of isotopes in the A=28-62 mass range, which had previously been unsolved.[58] This was the grandest advance in theory of primary nucleosynthesis in supernovae since Hoyle's 1954 paper, whose focus it emulated. Fittingly Clayton's first public presentation of this theory was during his residence at Hoyle's new institute in summer 1968. Of extreme importance was its demonstration that supernova silicon burning should become profoundly radioactive because rapid quasiequilibrium between atomic weights A=44-62 is overwhelmingly of radioactive nuclei.[59] Abundant radioactivity was Clayton's most important discovery for astronomy. Quasiequilibrium maintained that even the mountain-like abundance peak at iron was synthesized as radioactive nickel parents 56Ni and 57Ni in the supernovae explosions rather than as iron directly.[60] This discovery intensified Clayton's long and productive focus with radioactive isotopes ejected from supernovae, leading to his predictions of both gamma-ray line astronomy[61] and of radioactive supernova grains condensed from hot supernova gases.[62] Experimental confirmation two decades later of both predictions spurred those new fields of astronomy and brought Clayton high honors. At Rice University a prolific 1970-74 with colleagues W. David Arnett, Stanford E. Woosley and W.Michael Howard explored other explosive nucleosynthesis caused by the radially outgoing supernova shock wave.[63] Scientific leadership of nucleosynthesis had shifted by 1975 from Hoyle in Cambridge and Fowler at Caltech to Rice University. During 1967-72 Clayton resided half time in Cambridge U.K. at Hoyle's invitation[64] to import and advise nucleosynthesis research at Hoyle's newly constructed Institute of Theoretical Astronomy. Clayton did this by bringing his graduate students at Rice with him to Cambridge. Hoyle subsequently made three research visits with Clayton at Rice University.[65][66] After Clayton's 1989 move to Clemson University, his research with Bradley S. Meyer showed how the uniquely puzzling 48Ca isotope of calcium had become so abundant in the Galaxy[67] owing to a relatively rare form of Type Ia supernovae in which the appropriate neutron-enriched quasiequilibrium nucleosynthesis occurs. They later explained why the minor 95Mo and 97Mo isotopes of the element molybdenum had become dominant in supernovae stardust,[68] explaining a riddle in the stardust isotopic abundances. Clayton began in 2000 a spirited prose description of isotopic nucleosynthesis[69] in order to increase its accessibility to public and to scientists conducting isotopic analyses of stardust. Increasingly disappointed that Hoyle's theory of primary nucleosynthesis in massive stars was gradually being overlooked and forgotten after he fell into science disfavor over his views on interstellar biology, Clayton published two historical papers reestablishing consciousness of Hoyle's pioneering achievement.[70] See chapters 7, 9 and 18 of Clayton's life in Catch a Falling Star.

Gamma-ray-line astronomy of radioactive nuclei in supernovae[edit]

Clayton, Colgate & Fishman's prediction motivating gamma-ray-line astronomy [71] as an empirical test of supernova nucleosynthesis was recognized in the American Astronomical Society Centennial Volume [11] as one of the 50 most influential astrophysics papers of the 20th century. Observational discovery of those gamma rays would confirm explosive nucleosynthesis theory and cement mankind's understanding of the radioactive nature of supernovae. It is the innovation for which Clayton is best known. His NASA-funded research at Rice University during the 1970s sought additional nuclear prospects[72] for that high-energy spectroscopic astronomy, which is based on the recognizable energies of gamma rays emitted by individual radioactive nuclei that have been ejected from supernovae. Today it has blossomed with many observational results after quickly becoming a goal for future space astronomy missions, especially at a time when Compton Gamma Ray Observatory was being proposed to NASA in 1977 (launched by Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1991). Hopes were raised for a detectable source when in 1987 optical astronomers discovered a nearby supernova called SN1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Clayton described those hopes from his 1987 sabbatical office at Durham University as a mounting excitement generated by observed X-ray emission from its supernova surface.[73] He augmented understanding of those hard X-rays and their derivation from the radioactivity gamma rays permeating supernova interiors.[74] Supernova 1987A gamma-ray emission did yield exciting first detections of those gamma-ray lines from 56Co[75] and from 57Co[76] (with Clayton a coauthor) thereby establishing this field of astronomy. CGRO, the space gamma-ray telescope that detected several predicted gamma-ray lines, was the second mission of NASA’s Great Observatories program. In 1977 at Rice University Clayton had been named Co-Investigator for the NASA-approved proposal for the OSSE spectrometer on CGRO, and in 1982 he summarized physical expectations for several gamma-ray-line emitting young nuclei.[72] Key to the intense supernova radioactivity had been Clayton's 1967 discovery that rapid-silicon-burning was dominated by abundances of radioactive alpha-particle nuclei (those having equal numbers of protons and neutrons[77]). Clayton has quipped that SN explosions are "the largest nuclear accidents of all time". Supernova 1987A ejected 20,000 times the mass of the earth[78] as pure radioactive 56Ni nuclei! Abundant iron of our world was synthesized as a daughter of radioactive nickel,[79] the most important of the radioactive nuclei. Modern studies of supernovae are dominated by their intensely radioactive natures. Spacetime data for cosmology relies on 56Ni radioactivity providing the energy for the optical brightness of supernovae of Type Ia, which are the "standard candles" of cosmology but whose diagnostic 847keV and 1238keV gamma rays were first detected only in 2014,[80] fully 47 years after Clayton's prediction of their emission by supernovae. Clayton's work earned for him NASA's 1992 Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award and in the same year the NASA Public Service Group Achievement Award for the OSSE Spectrometer on CGRO. Both the OSSE instrument and the Comptel instrument confirmed predictions.[81] Clayton had once before attempted to establish gamma-ray-line astronomy from r process radioactive nuclei;[82] but r-process nuclei are much less abundant in supernovae than are the nuclei fused during silicon-burning. So it was the latter that became the demonstrated source of radioactive nuclei. Chapters 8, 11, 17 and 18 in Catch a Falling Star.

Astronomy of Stardust[edit]

Clayton introduced the idea that the relative abundances of the isotopes in tiny solid grains embedded in gases leaving stars may be observable. He named these solids stardust,[83] a component of interstellar Cosmic dust. Stardust inherits its unusual isotopic compositions from the evolved nuclear compositions of the host stars within which they condensed. Clayton's disclosures began [84] with isotopic excesses in supernova dust owing to decays of abundant short-lived radioactive nuclei, but were generalized to all stellar mass loss in 1978.[85] Clayton predicted novel isotopic abundance ratios to be expected in stardust, which he described as being ubiquitous among the interstellar dust grains. These papers initially encountered such incredulity in the field of cosmochemistry that most were rejected first and published later;[86] nonetheless, R.W. Walker and E. Zinner at Washington University undertook instrumental development that might prove capable of measuring isotope ratios in such tiny solids.[87] Almost two decades of experimental search were required before intact stardust grains, (also called presolar grains by some meteoriticists), were successfully isolated from the vast remainder of other presolar dust particles.[87] These tiny grains were successfully extracted from meteorites and their isotopes counted by precision laboratory technique of secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS). Those dramatic experimental discoveries in the 1990s, led primarily by Ernst Zinner (1937-2015)[88] and his colleagues at Washington University (St. Louis)[89] confirmed the stunning reality of this new astronomy; namely, solid particles that condensed within stellar gases long before the earth was created are today handled in laboratories on earth. These tiny stones are quite literally solid pieces of long dead stars. This was revolutionary. The discovery experiments dispelled skepticism surrounding Clayton's predictions, causing him to be awarded [6] the 1991 Leonard Medal of the Meteoritical Society. Main modern themes of this solid-state astronomical science have been summarized in 2004 by Clayton & Nittler.[90] To debate the meanings of the frequent new discoveries, Clayton initiated in 1990 at Clemson University an annual series of workshops cosponsored by NASA and planned jointly[91] with Ernst Zinner and his colleagues at Washington University (St. Louis), where presolar stardust particles were being documented in the laboratory by SIMS[92] Clayton continued in the interpretation of stardust for three decades after his founding ideas.[93] Noterworthy was his interpretation of the puzzling silicon isotope ratios found in the presolar Asymptotic giant branch stars, which demonstrably have been the donor stars of the known presolar mainstream silicon carbide stardust grains to the interstellar solar birth cloud, as having arisen from a galactic merger of Milky Way interstellar gas with the interstellar gas from a smaller captured satellite galaxy possessing a lower gaseous isotopic abundance ratio for 30Si28Si [94] owing to its lesser degree of galactic abundance evolution.[95] That picture audaciously claimed that the merger of a small satellite galaxy with the Milky Way (a large-scale event) can be seen within microscopic interstellar grains of sand. Chapters 14 and 15 and pages 504-508 in Catch a Falling Star

Galactic abundance evolution of radioactive nuclei[edit]

Clayton created new tools for calculating the interstellar abundances of radioactive nuclei in the Galaxy. In 1964 he had discovered a new method for measuring the age of interstellar nuclei based on the larger than expected observed abundances of stable daughters of radioactive nuclei.[96] The decays of rhenium-187 to osmium-187 and of uranium and thorium to three differing isotopes of lead (Pb) defined new cosmoradiogenic chronologies. Merging his method with an earlier method based only on the abundances of uranium and thorium themselves[97] still did not yield a precise galactic age, however. Clayton wrote[98] that the discord arose from inadequate treatments of both the history of star formation in the Galaxy and of the rate of infall of pristine gas onto the young Milky Way, compounded by a prevailing but erroneous technique for computation of the radioactive abundances within interstellar gas. Clayton reasoned that interstellar gas contains higher concentrations of shorter-lived radioactive nuclei than do the stars. With that insight he invented in 1985 new mathematical solutions for the equations of galactic abundance evolution that for the first time rendered these relationships transparent,[99] ending decades of confusion. Clayton calculated an age of 13-15 billion years for the oldest galactic nuclei,[98] which would necessarily be approximately equal to the age of our galaxy. More recently radioactive cosmochronology has diminished in importance because more accurate techniques for determining the age of the Milky Way have been discovered in the microwave background; but agreement confirmed correctness of his treatment of radioactivity in astronomy. His analytic mathematical models demonstrated that the concentration of short-lived radioactive nuclei in interstellar gas had routinely been underestimated by the factor 1/(k+1), where k is an integer near 2 or 3 that measures the steepness of the rate of decline of the infall of pristine gas onto our galaxy.[100] In a parallel scientific development the identities and initial abundances of shorter-lived radioactive nuclei that had remained alive at variable levels within the interstellar gas cloud that formed the early solar system but which are now extinct has grown in importance with more experimental discoveries of such nuclei within the meteorites. These are called extinct radioactivities because none remain on earth today. Simultaneous solution for their abundances became the guiding principle for a new discipline of galactic abundance evolution that focuses on nucleosynthesis near the solar interstellar cloud during the billion years preceding solar birth.[101] In 1983, at a time when astrophysicists were relying on only a uniform model of a well mixed interstellar gas, Clayton introduced a new aspect of the ISM that has proven to be essential for understanding the abundances of the extinct radioactivities; namely the time required for isotopic mixing between freshly synthesized atoms ejected from supernovae with distinct physical phases of interstellar gas. He showed that owing to those time delays allowing more interstellar decay of radioactive nuclei, each phase of interstellar gas contains a distinct average concentration of each of the extinct radioactive nuclides; but that the early solar system radioactivities measured specifically only abundances in the dense molecular-cloud phase[102] in which the solar system had been born. In the 21st century many researchers have begun to present their own calculations of the effect of interstellar inter-phase mixing,[103] often unaware of Clayton's (1983) paper owing to intervening decades. These aspects of interstellar phase mixing will remain important for decades to come while astronomers probe the circumstances of solar birth using the precious data revealing the abundances of the extinct radioactive nuclei. Clayton therefore gave emphasis to extinct radioactivity in the Glossary of his 2003 book on isotopes in the cosmos.[104] Chapters 16 and 17 of "Catch a Falling Star".

Condensation of carbon solids from oxygen-rich supernova gas[edit]

Clayton repeatedly advocated that supernova carbon stardust (which in 1977 he had named[105] SUNOCONs (acronym for SUperNOva CONdensates) could have assembled within hot supernova gases containing more oxygen than carbon. Meteoritic chemists strenuously doubted that possibility on intuitive but erroneous chemical grounds, believing that abundant hot oxygen gas would oxidize all carbon atoms leaving them trapped within chemically inert CO molecules. These doubts held SUNOCON condensation ideas back for many years. Clayton argues in his papers that this incorrect chemical rule-of-thumb was dominating interpretive studies of carbon SUNOCONs (primarily SiC grains and graphite grains). He spearheaded that new research field during his latest eighteen years (1998-2016) by emphasizing that copius energetic electrons produced by scattering of gamma [106] rays emitted by radioactive cobalt continuously replenish the abundance of free carbon atoms in the supernova interior by breaking apart those abundant CO molecules. This enables carbon-chain molecules to continuously capture carbon atoms until they become macroscopic grains of carbon.[107] He summarized his new picture in a 2011 review paper,[108] advancing "New Rules" for carbon condensation in oxygen-rich supernovae gases. The kinetic-chemical-reaction model underlying all of these works was initially devised by Clayton, Weihong Liu and Alexander Dalgarno[109] and later expanded by Clayton and his colleagues at Clemson.[110] Their works showed that very large dust grains (micrometers in radius) in comparison with average interstellar-medium dust sizes can grow within the expanding oxygen-rich supernova interior owing to the principle of Population Control.[111] According to that principle rapid oxidation abets large-grain carbon condensation by keeping the population of carbon solids small so that those few can grow large by accreting the continuously replenished free carbon. This topic establishes another new aspect of carbon's uniquely versatile chemistry. Chapter 18 of Catch a Falling Star


  1. ^ a b c d Clayton, Donald D (2009). Catch a Falling Star: A Life Discovering Our Universe. iUniverse. ISBN 9781440161032. 
  2. ^ a b Clayton, Donald D (1975). The Dark Night Sky: A Personal Adventure in Cosmology. New York: Quadrangle. ISBN 0812905857. 
  3. ^ a b "1970 Clayton and Rosselini in Sardinia". Clemson University. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  4. ^ "PHOTO ARCHIVE IN NUCLEAR ASTROPHYSICS". Clemson University. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "NASA Headquarters Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal". Clemson University. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Leonard Medal of Meteoritical Society". Clemson University. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  7. ^ "OSSE Meeting at Northwestern University April 1993". Clemson University. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  8. ^ "Jesse W. Beams Medal, American Physical Society Southeastern Section". Clemson University. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  9. ^ "South Carolina Governor's Award for Excellence in Science". Clemson University. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  10. ^ "Alexander von Humboldt Senior Scientist Award". Clemson University. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  11. ^ a b "Donald Clayton". Clemson University. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  12. ^ "Arnold Wolfendale and Donald Clayton". Clemson University. Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  13. ^ "SMU President Kenneth Pye and Clayton". Clemson University. Retrieved 6 November 2013. 
  14. ^ Clayton, Donald D. "Highland Park High School 1950-53". Catch a Falling Star: A Life Discovering Our Universe (PDF). Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  15. ^ Catch a Falling Star op cit , p. 84
  16. ^ Note: Mary Lou Clayton was hired by Mathew Sands on the Ford Foundation project for these lectures. Donald Clayton contributed time to help identify the physics vocabulary that Feynman used. See Catch a Falling Star, p. 142
  17. ^ "Star Catcher" (PDF). Retrieved 20 September 2014.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  18. ^ University of Chicago Press, reprint 1983
  19. ^ "Photo Archive In Nuclear Astrophysics: Photo List". Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  20. ^ Catch a Falling Star Chap. 9, p. 179-183. "Star Catcher" (PDF). Retrieved 20 September 2014.  |chapter= ignored (help)
  21. ^ Fred Hoyle, Home is where the wind blows (University Science Books, Mill Valley CA 1994) p. 372-376
  22. ^ Arnett, W.D. (1970). "Explosive Nucleosynthesis in Stars". Nature 227: 780–784. Bibcode:1970Natur.227..780A. doi:10.1038/227780a0.  jointly with Clayton
  23. ^ Astrophysical Journal 155, 75 (1969); Astrophysical Journal 158, L43 (1969)
  24. ^ American Astronomical Society Centennial Issue, Astrophysical Journal 525, 1-1283 (1999)
  25. ^ “Extinct radioactivities: Trapped residuals of pre-solar grains”, Astrophys. J., 199, 765-69, (1975); “22Na, Ne-E, Extinct radioactive anomalies and unsupported 40Ar”, Nature, 257, 36-37, (1975); “Cosmoradiogenic ghosts and the origin of Ca-Al-rich inclusions”, Earth and Planetary Sci. Lett., 35, 398-410, 1977; “An interpretation of special and general isotopic anomalies in r-process nuclei”, Astrophys. J., 224, 1007-1012, (1978); “On strontium isotopic anomalies and odd-A p-process abundances, Astrophys. J. Lett., 224, L93-95, (1978); “Precondensed matter: Key to the early solar system”, The Moon and Planets, 19, 109-137 (1978)]
  26. ^ Clayton, Catch a falling star, op cit, p. 354-57, p. 387-395
  27. ^ Cosmic chemical memory: a new astronomy (1981 George Darwin Lecture of the RAS), QJRAS 23, 174-212 (1982)
  28. ^ Chapter 14 of his autobiography Catch a Falling Star
  29. ^ Stochastic histories of refractory interstellar dust, Proceedings Lunar and planetary ScienceConference 18, 637-657 (1988); Astrophys. J. 340, 853-868 (1989)
  30. ^ Astrophys. J. 323, 159-169 (1987)
  31. ^ Astrophys. J. 294, 591-598 (1985)
  32. ^ Clayton's own words in Catch a falling star op cit attest to his sense of vindication over this issue:(1) The telephone rings in s-process stardust, p 400-401; (2)"Comic battle over the Leonard Medal, p. 489-491
  33. ^ Donald D. Clayton, Nature 404, 329 (2000)
  34. ^ Catch a Falling Star, Chap. 18
  35. ^ Mark Leising, Dieter Hartmann and Bradley S. Meyer: Catch a Falling Star photo p. 494
  36. ^ "Presolar Grain workshop 2012". Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  37. ^ "Photo Archive In Nuclear Astrophysics". Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  38. ^ [1]
  39. ^ Center for History of Physics is a wing of American Institute of Physics. It can be reached on the web at and clicking on History Programs
  40. ^ Catch a Falling Star, photo on p. 99
  41. ^ Donald Clayton, Catch a falling star op cit p. 98-100
  42. ^ Catch a falling star op cit p.300-301
  43. ^ Donald Clayton, Catch a falling star, op cit, p.412-413
  44. ^ "Nancy Clayton - Arclay Art- Web Page". Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  45. ^ Catch a Falling Star, Chap. 7
  46. ^ Catch a Falling Star, p. 6-9
  47. ^ National Archives, Muster Roll, 43rd Company, Army of Ohio Infantry
  48. ^ p. 245-249 in Catch a Falling Star. The wiki article on Dominique de Menil documents the interaction of the de Menils with Rosselini through the Rice University Media Center
  49. ^ "PHOTO ARCHIVE IN NUCLEAR ASTROPHYSICS". Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  50. ^ No documentation exists for this failure, so this conclusion is based on Clayton's memory of it.
  51. ^ Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co. (1975): A book columnist for Washington Post wrote on March 21, 1976:"Altogether more personal, The Dark Night Sky alternates cosmology with affable reminiscence. Clayton knows the rapture of astronomy and uses it to shuttle engagingly back and forth between Copernicus, Einstein, Stonehenge, the Milky Way and punts on Cambridge's Cam. A brooding, ecumenical enthusiast, Clayton dreads the vacant interstellar spaces as much as he loves galaxies, Texas, and the maple tree he planted a quarter of a century ago. His is a book of brainy charm."
  52. ^ "Donald D. Clayton". Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  53. ^ "Donald D. Clayton Journal Publications" (PDF). Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  54. ^ Analytic Approximation of Carbon Condensation Issues in Type II Supernovae, Astrophys. J. 762, 5 (2013)
  55. ^ Burbidge, Burbidge, Fowler & Hoyle RMP 29, 547 (1957)
  56. ^ ["Neutron Capture Chains in Heavy Element Synthesis" Annals of Physics, 12, 331-408 (1961); "Nucleosynthesis of Heavy Elements by Neutron Capture" Ap. J. Suppl. 11, 121-166 (1965)]
  57. ^ ["Nucleosynthesis During Silicon Burning", D. Bodansky. D.D, Clayton & W.A. Fowler, Phys. Rev. Letters, 20, 161, (1968); “Nuclear quasi-equilibrium during silicon burning”, D. Bodansky. D.D, Clayton & W.A. Fowler, Astrophys. J. Suppl. No. 148, 16, 299, (1968); Chapter 7 of Clayton's 1968 textbook, Principles of Stellar Evolution and Nucleosynthesis]
  58. ^ The B2FH review "Synthesis of the Elements in Stars" RMP 29, 547 (1957) had little correct to say in explanation of primary nucleosynthesis in this mass region. The highly acclaimed B2FH review focussed more on isotopes that can be converted in stars to other isotopes, the so-called secondary processes
  59. ^ Phys. Rev.Letters 20, 161 (1968); Astrophys. J. 16,299 (1968)
  60. ^ Astrophys. J.155, 75 (1969); Woosley, Arnett & Clayton, Astrophys. J. Suppl. 26, 231-312 (1973). See Radioactive Progenitors on p. 286-87
  61. ^ Astrophys. J.155, 75 (1969); Astrophys. J. 188, 155 (1974); Astrophys. J. 198, 151 (1975)
  62. ^ Astrophys. J. 199, 765 (1975);Nature 257,36 (1975); Moon & Planets 19, 109 (1978)
  63. ^ ["Explosive nucleosynthesis in stars, Arnett & Clayton, Nature 227, 780-84 (1970); “Thermonuclear origin of rare neutron-rich isotopes”, Phys. Rev. Letters, 27, 1607, (1971) and Astrophys. J., 175, 201, (1972); “The explosive burning of oxygen and silicon”, Astrophys. J. Supplement Series, 26, 231-312, (1973)]
  64. ^ Catch a Falling Star Chapter 10, p.210
  65. ^
  66. ^
  67. ^ "48Ca Production in Matter expanding from High Temperature and Density" Astrophys. J. 462, 825 (1996); Meyer, Krishnan & Clayton, Astrophys. J. Suppl. 26, 231-312 (1973)
  68. ^ Astrophys.J, 540, L49-52 (2000)
  69. ^ Handbook of Isotopes in the Cosmos" Cambridge University Press 2003
  70. ^ Donald D.Clayton "Hoyle’s Equation" Science 318, 1876-77 (2007); Donald D. Clayton "Fred Hoyle, primary nucleosynthesis and radioactivity" New Astronomy Reviews 52, 360-63 (2008). Younger scientists who never knew Hoyle were overlooking what his 1954 paper had achieved
  71. ^ ["Gamma-ray lines from young supernova remnants", Clayton, Colgate & Fishman, (1969) ApJ, 155, 75-82]
  72. ^ a b Donald Clayton, "Cosmic radioactivity: a gamma-ray search for the origins of atomic nuclei, in ESSAYS IN NUCLEAR ASTROPHYSICS, Barnes, Clayton & Schramm, eds., pp. 401-426 (Cambridge University Press, 1982)
  73. ^ Hard X rays imply more to come, Nature 330, 423 (1987)
  74. ^ [Clayton & The "Bremmsstrahlung and Energetic Electrons in Supernovae" (1991) ApJ, 375, 221]
  75. ^ "Gamma-ray line emission from SN1987A", S.M. Matz, G.H. Share et al., Nature 331, 416–418 (1988)
  76. ^ OSSE Observations of 57Co in SN1987A", J.D. Kurfess et al.,Astrophys. J. Letters, 399, L137 (1992)
  77. ^ Phys. Rev. Lett. 20, 161 (1968); Principles of Stellar Evolution and Nucleosynthesis, Chap. 7 (1968); "Explosive Burning of Oxygen and Silicon" Astrophys. J. Suppl. 26, 231 (1973); "The Secondary Supernova Machine: Gravitational Compression, Stored Coulomb Energy, and SNII Displays", Donald D. Clayton and Bradley S. Meyer, New Astronomy Reviews, in press 2015
  78. ^ Donald D. Clayton, Handbook of Isotopes in the Cosmos, p. 256 (iUniverse, New York, 2009)
  79. ^ "Radiogenic Iron", Donald Clayton, Meteoritics and Planetary Science 34, A145-A160 (1999)
  80. ^ “Cobalt-56 γ-ray emission lines from the type Ia supernova 2014J”, E. Churazov, R. Sunyaev et al., Nature 512, 406–408 (2014)
  81. ^ “The 57Co Abundance in Supernova 1987A”, Astrophys. J. (Lett.), 399, L141-L144 (1992); “Hard X rays from Supernova 1993J”, Astrophys. J. (Letters) 431, L95-L98, (1993); F. Iyudin et al. Astron. & Astrophys. 284, L4 (1994); “CGRO/OSSE Observations of the Cassiopea A Supernova Remnant”, Astrophys. J., 444, 244-250, (1995)
  82. ^ [“Radioactivity in supernova remnants”, Astrophys. J., 142, 189-200, 1965]
  83. ^ Precondensed Matter: Key to the Early Solar System, Moon & Planets 19, 109 (1978)
  84. ^ [ “Extinct radioactivities: Trapped residuals of pre-solar grains”, Astrophys. J., 199, 765-69, (1975); “22Na, Ne-E, Extinct radioactive anomalies and unsupported 40Ar”, Nature, 257, 36-37, (1975)
  85. ^ Precondensed Matter: Key to the Early Solar System, Moon & Planets 19, 109 (1978); "Grains of anomalous isotopic composition from novae", Clayton & Hoyle, Astrophys.J. 203, 490 (1976); “Cosmoradiogenic ghosts and the origin of Ca-Al-rich inclusions”, Earth and Planetary Sci. Lett., 35, 398-410, 1977; "s-Process studies: xenon isotopic abundances" Astrophys. J. 224, 1000-1006 (1978), initially submitted in 1975; “An interpretation of special and general isotopic anomalies in r-process nuclei”, Astrophys. J., 224, 1007-1012, (1978); “On strontium isotopic anomalies and odd-A p-process abundances, Astrophys. J. Lett., 224, L93-95, (1978)
  86. ^ Chap. 14, "Falling Stardust", p. 299-368 , Catch a Falling Star (iUniverse; New York 2009
  87. ^ a b K. D. McKeegan, Met. and Planetary Sciences, 42, 1045 (2007) reviews this history
  88. ^ Clayton and Zinner became close friends and colleagues. Clayton's obituary for Zinner appears in the February (2016) issue of PHYSICS TODAY.
  89. ^ but also by scientists in Chicago, Pasadena, and Mainz
  90. ^ Annual Reviews of Astronomy and Astrophysics 42, 39-78 (2004)
  91. ^ "Presolar Grain workshop". Retrieved 20 September 2014. 
  92. ^ "Presolar Grain workshop 2012". Retrieved 2013-10-06. 
  93. ^ [“Placing the Sun in Galactic Chemical Evolution: Mainstream SiC Particles”, Astrophys. J., 483, 220-227 (1997); “Placing the Sun and Mainstream SiC Particles in Galactic Chemodynamic Evolution”, Astrophys. J. Letters, 484 , L67-L70 (1997); “Type-X Silicon Carbide Presolar Grains: SNIa Supernova Condensates?”, Astrophys. J., 486, 824-834 (1997); “Molybdenum Isotopes from a Supernova Neutron Burst”, Astrophysical Journal Letters, 540, L49-L52 (2000); “Supernova Reverse Shocks and Presolar SiC Grains”, Astrophys. J. 594, 312-25 (2003)
  94. ^ “A Presolar Galactic Merger Spawned the SiC-grain Mainstream”, Astrophys. J. 598, 313-24 (2003)]
  95. ^ "Isotopic anomalies: chemical memory of galactic evolution" Astrophys. J 334, 191 (1988)
  96. ^ [“Cosmoradiogenic chronologies of nucleosynthesis”, Astrophys. J., 139, 637-63, (1964)]
  97. ^ W.A. Fowler and Fred Hoyle, Annals of Phys. 10, 280(1960)
  98. ^ a b Nuclear cosmochronology within analytic models of the chemical evolution of the solar neighborhood, Mon. Notices Roy. Astron. Soc., 234, 1-36 (1988)
  99. ^ [“Galactic chemical evolution and nucleocosmochronology: A standard model”, in Challenges and New Developments in Nucleosynthesis, W. D. Arnett, W. Hillebrandt, and J. W. Truran, eds., University of Chicago Press (Chicago), 65-88 (1984); “Nuclear cosmochronology within analytic models of the chemical evolution of the solar neighborhood”, Mon. Notices Roy. Astron. Soc., 234, 1-36 (1988); “Isotopic anomalies: Chemical memory of galactic evolution”, Astrophys. J., 334, 191-195, (1988)]
  100. ^ [op cit.; “On 26Al and Other Short-lived Interstellar Radioactivity”, Astrophys. J. (Letters) 415, L25-L29 (1993)]
  101. ^ [“Short-lived Radioactivities and the Birth of the Sun”, B.S. Meyer & D.D. Clayton, Space Science Revs., 92, 133-152 (2000)]
  102. ^ “Extinct radioactivities: A three-phase mixing model”, D. Clayton, Astrophys. J., 268, 381-384, 1983
  103. ^ “Short-lived Radioactivities and the Birth of the Sun”, B.S. Meyer & D.D. Clayton, Space Science Revs., 92, 133-152 (2000); Jacobsen, S.B., 2005 "The birth of the solar system in a molecular cloud: evidence from the isotopic pattern of short-lived nuclides in the early solar system" in Krot, A.N., Scott, E.R.D., Reipurth, B. (Eds.), Chondrites and the Protoplanetary Disk. In: Astron. Soc. Pac. Conf. Ser., vol. 341, pp. 548–557; Huss, G.R., Meyer, B.S., Srinivasan, G., Goswami, J.N., Sahijpal, S., 2009. Stellar sources of the short-lived radionuclides in the early solar system. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 73, 4922–4945; E.D. Young "Inheritance of solar short- and long-lived radionuclides from molecular clouds and the unexceptional nature of the solar system" Earth and Planetary Science Letters 392 (2014) 16–27
  104. ^ Donald Clayton, Handbook of isotopes in the cosmos , Cambridge University Press 2003), p.285-289
  105. ^ Moon & Planets 19, 109(1978)
  106. ^ Clayton and L.S. The, Astrophys J. Bremmstrahlung and Energetic Electrons in Supernovae, Ap.J. 375, 221-38 (1991)
  107. ^ [“Condensation of Carbon in Radioactive Supernova Gas”, Science 283, 1290-1292 (1999); Astrophysical Journal 562, 480-493 (2001); “Supernova Reverse Shocks and Presolar SiC Grains”, Astrophys. J. 594, 312-25 (2003); "Growth of Carbon Grains in Supernova Ejecta”, Astrophys. J 638, 234-40 (2006); "Formation of Cn Molecules in Oxygen-Rich Interiors of Type II Supernovae", Astrophys. J. 769, 38 (2013)]
  108. ^ “A New Astronomy with Radioactivity: Radiogenic Carbon Chemistry”, New Astronomy Reviews , 55, 155-65 (2011)]
  109. ^ Science 283, 1290-92 (1999)
  110. ^ Astrophys. J. 562, 480 (2001); Astrophys. J. 594, 312-325 (2003); Astrophys. J. 638, 234-240 (2006); Astrophys. J. 769, 2013-19 (2013)
  111. ^ [New Astronomy Reviews 55, 155-65 (2011), section 5.5, p. 163]