His first publication showed the comparisons between known age samples and radiocarbon age (Libby et al, 1949; Libby, 1952). For the first time it was possible to obtain ages for many events which occurred over the past ~50,000 years.
In 1960 Libby was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry for this contribution.
When a plant or animal dies it no longer exchanges CO with the atmosphere (ceases to take 14C into its being). 14C decays by emitting an electron, which converts a neutron to a proton, converting it back to its original 14N form.
The History of Radiocarbon Dating Willard Libby invented radiocarbon dating in the late 1940s.
This is especially true for old samples with low beta activity.14C enters the dissolved inorganic carbon pool in the oceans, lakes and rivers.From there it is incorporated into shell, corals and other marine organisms.All radiocarbon laboratories either standardize to the US National Bureau of Standards Oxalic Acid I (OX-I) which is derived from Sugar Beets in 1955 or a secondary standard NBS OX-II (grown in 1977) or Australian National University Sucrose (ANU), which is sugar from the 1974 growing season in Australia.Both the OX-II and ANU have been extensively cross-calibrated to OX-I and can be used to normalize a sample for radiocarbon dating.