Byline: DAN MOREAU
Willard Frank Libby was the son of a farmer who raised him on a fruit ranch in Sebastopol, Calif.
He desperately wanted to go to college. Except neither his family nor Libby had anywhere near enough money to pay for his dream.
He did, however, possess drive. And the stamina to hammer together wooden fruit boxes.
So young Libby hammered. And hammered and hammered until he was making as much as $100 a week during the mid-1920s summers.
"It was good money," Libby recalled decades later. "If you could stand the pressure."
Libby could. He'd later rely on that same energy and temperament as he worked on the development of the atomic bomb. It would help him win a Nobel Prize in chemistry for discovering the now-familiar carbon-14 method of measuring the age of organic matter. And it would inspire him to push for research into environmental pollution.
Libby (1908-80) was born in Grand Valley, Colo. But his father soon moved the family to California.
Fascinated by science, Libby delved into his studies. He asked the local librarian for more books on the subject so he could learn more.