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Frank H. Spedding papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: RS 17/1/11

Scope and Content

The collection (1925-1985, undated) contains the correspondence, publications, clippings, speeches of Frank H. Spedding and administrative records related to his work as director of the Ames Laboratory of the U.S. Department of Energy.


  • 1925-1985, undated

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives


Frank Harold Spedding was born to Howard Leslie and Mary Ann Elizabeth Spedding on October 22, 1902, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He received his B.S. (1925) in chemical engineering and his M.S. (1926) in analytical chemistry both from the University of Michigan. He received his Ph.D. (1929) in chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley.

Due to the Great Depression, Spedding was forced to work in temporary positions at Berkeley until 1934, then at Cornell University until 1937. He was then offered an assistant professorship at Iowa State University as the Director of the Physical Chemistry Department. In 1941, he assumed the position of Professor of Chemistry, and was appointed Professor of Physics in 1950. In 1962, he became Professor of Metallurgy.

In 1941, Spedding was asked to join the researchers working on the atomic bomb. He and his staff in Ames, Iowa, developed a relatively easy and inexpensive method for producing uranium of high purity in large quantities, necessary for what became known as the Manhattan Project. His team produced over two million pounds of uranium between 1941 and 1945. Spedding was also present at the University of Chicago to witness the first controlled atomic chain reaction.

After World War II, Spedding founded the Institute of Atomic Research, and, in 1947, the Ames Laboratory of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, becoming its first Director. He remained Director until he returned to his research in 1968. In 1973, he gained the status of Professor Emeritus.

Dr. Spedding’s work with the rare earth elements was highly regarded and considered to be important pioneering research in the field. He was universally acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost experts on the identification and separation of rare earths. He was also an editor and authored over 260 articles in professional journals. He was a member of the American Chemical Society, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Physical Society, the Faraday Society, Sigma Chi, Phi Lambda Upsilon, Phi Kappa Phi, and was an honorary member of Tau Beta Pi, the Society of Applied Spectroscopy, and the Austrian Chemical Society. He won numerous awards including the Langmuir Award, the Nichols Medal, the Douglas Medal, the Clamer Medal, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was nominated for the Nobel Prize. He received honorary degrees from the University of Michigan, Case Institute of Technology, and Drake University. Dr. Spedding died in 1984 at the age of 82.


44.52 Linear Feet (106 document boxes)


The collection is organized chronologically with biographical information at the front.

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

RS 17/1/11. Frank H. Spedding papers, 1925-1985, undated
January 23, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672