Willard Libby (1908–1980), a professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago, began the research that led him to radiocarbon dating in 1945.
He was inspired by physicist Serge Korff (1906–1989) of New York University, who in 1939 discovered that neutrons were produced during the bombardment of the atmosphere by cosmic rays.
As a relative dating method, it can determine the relative age of specimens, but cannot provide a calendrical date unless the fluoride chronology is calibrated with an absolute dating method.
Bones are primarily composed of the mineral calcium hydroxy apatite.
The amount of C-14 in the atmosphere settles into an equilibrium where creation of new atoms is equal to the decay of old atoms.
A January 20, 2005 article in the scholarly, peer-reviewed scientific journal Thermochimica Acta (Volume 425, pages 189-194, by Raymond N.
Rogers, Los Alamos National Laboratory, University of California) makes it perfectly clear: the carbon 14 dating sample cut from the Shroud in 1988 was not valid.
Korff predicted that the reaction between these neutrons and nitrogen-14, which predominates in the atmosphere, would produce carbon-14, also called radiocarbon.
Libby cleverly realized that carbon-14 in the atmosphere would find its way into living matter, which would thus be tagged with the radioactive isotope.