For radiocarbon dating
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View the full list Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50,000 years.
Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years— during the succeeding 5,730 years.
Because carbon-14 decays at this constant rate, an estimate of the date at which an organism died can be made by measuring the amount of its residual radiocarbon.
Radiocarbon decays slowly in a living organism, and the amount lost is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food.
The method was developed by Willard Libby and his colleagues at the University of Chicago in 1949.
The radiocarbon method was developed by a team of scientists led by the late Professor Willard F.