William Draper Harkins

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William Draper Harkins
Born December 28, 1873
Titusville, Pennsylvania.
Died March 7, 1951 (1951-03-08) (aged 77)
Nationality U.S.
Fields nuclear chemistry
Institutions University of Montana
University of Chicago
Alma mater Stanford University
Doctoral students Lyle Benjamin Borst
Notable awards Willard Gibbs Award (1928)

William Draper Harkins (December 28, 1873 – March 7, 1951) was an U.S. chemist, notably for his contributions to nuclear chemistry. Harkins researched the structure of the atomic nucleus and was the first to propose the principle of nuclear fusion,[1][2] four years before Jean Baptiste Perrin published his theory in 1919-20. His findings enabled, among other things, the development of the H-bomb.

Harkins was born in Titusville, Pennsylvania.

Harkins graduated with a PhD from Stanford University in 1907,[3] and subsequently taught chemistry at the University of Montana from 1900 to 1912. He spent the rest of his career at the University of Chicago.

Harper correctly predicted the existence of the neutron in 1920, which was then discovered in an experiment by James Chadwick in 1932. In the beginning of the 1930s, Harkins, together with Martin Kamen, built a cyclotron. From experiments with this, he concluded that the sun might be powered by nuclear fusion.

Among his students were Lyle Benjamin Borst, Calvin Souther Fuller and Robert James Moon, Jr. (1911–1989).

Harkins died in Chicago. He is buried at Oak Woods Cemetery.


  1. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=DoSXEGCeBmoC&pg=PA173
  2. ^ Robert S. Mulliken (1975). "William Draper Harkins 1873 - 1951" (PDF). Biographical Memoirs. National Academy of Sciences. 47: 48–81. 
  3. ^ Draper Harkins, William (1907). Excess-Potential and the Marsh Test (PhD thesis). Stanford University. 

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