Irene Worthington Baron



When I taught school for the Los Angeles City Schools 1960-1962, I was given the opportunity to meet the team leader of the trio that developed radioactive carbon dating using carbon-14, Willard Libby, Ph.D.

This took place during a workshop held for science teachers. Attendance of a specific number of workshops set up by the school district was required during the school year. Dr. Libby handed out the proof of attendance cards before his presentation, thereby not requiring attendance for his talk. Unfortunately, some of the teachers not interested in the topic left the premises. About ten of us stayed to listen to an intriguing talk. Dr. Libby graciously gave us ample opportunity to discuss his work after the informal presentation. The meeting reminded me of my coursework at Hiram College when a professor would informally meet with students for discussions at their home. It was wonderful.

Being a science teacher, I considered it an honor to meet such a distinguished gentleman and respected scientist, let alone to talk with him one-on-one. That is one opportunity I remember with awe. He was the first Nobel Prize winner I had met.

Dr. Libby described how he used radioactive carbon-14 for dating materials. One of the points Dr. Libby emphasized more than once was that the process was NOT very accurate for objects within a few thousand years old. He said that the older the object, the more accurate the process.

When I read in Biblical Archaeology Review articles referring to radioactive carbon dating for objects a few thousand years old, I question the importance placed on the results presented by the researchers. I realize technology has evolved in the years since I discussed the radioactive carbon dating process with Dr. Libby, and question what has changed to make the process more accurate for objects under 5,000-years old? Has it changed? Or are others not aware of the inaccuracy of dating younger objects?

As a reader, have you come across any resources discussing this discrepancy? As computers become more technical, have they made his process more accurate?

If you have time, please let me hear from you with comments or emails.

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