Compton playing his banjo mandolin for students

Saturday Science Lecture with Lee Sobotka on Arthur Holly Compton’s Influence on WashU Chemistry

Lee Sobotka from the Department of Physics, Washington University in St. Louis, will be hosting this Saturday Science Lecture on "Arthur Holly Compton’s Influence on WashU Chemistry"

One of Arthur Holly Compton’s first actions as Chancellor was to reach out to Joseph Kennedy, the head of chemistry, metallurgy and scientific security at the Manhattan project's site at Los Alamos, NM (the site that became the Los Alamos National Laboratory or LANL)  and offered him the chair of Washington University Department of Chemistry. The offer was pretty simple – come and bring whomever you want with you. Kennedy brought with him a cadre of outstanding scientists that became known as the “magnificent six.” This group included: Lindsay Helmholtz, David Lipkin, Hebert Potratz, Arthur Wahl and Samuel Weissman. They were experts in inorganic, organic, analytical, nuclear, and physical chemistry and each of these colorful characters would make indelible marks on science. In fact, it can be argued that several in this group had bent world history before they reached 30 years of age. However, even more was to come. Compton also played a role in bringing Martin Kamen, one of two co-discoverers of the most important radioisotope of them all, Carbon-14, to the Washington University School of Medicine. Kamen’s story is the most interesting of them all and is spliced with world history like few others.  This story must be retold again and again and never forgotten. 

This lecture is being presented as part of the Compton Centennial Celebration honoring 100 years since Arthur Holly Compton discovered the dual particle/wave nature of X-rays.

This lecture will be offered in person and on Zoom. The Zoom link will be sent via email to everyone on our email list before each lecture. Those wishing to join the email list should email a request to