A chemistry set, which she gave him at an early age, seems to have started a lifelong attraction to chemistry. After the war it was natural for him to return to the University of Chicago to continue his education. In those days a large number of scientists had left various wartime activities and had assembled at the University of Chicago.
He attended a small high school with fewer than 100 students, and later graduated from Grinnell College with an A. Laurie obtained a position as research infrared spectroscopist at the Illinois Institute of Technology to support him and their family while he pursued his Ph. In geochemistry those scientists included Harold Urey, Willard Libby, Harrison Brown, and Anthony Turkevich.
Thus, in addition to measuring the age of the Earth and significantly expanding the field of lead isotope geochemistry, Patterson applied his scientific expertise to create a healthier environment for society.
Clair Patterson (known as "Pat" to friends) was born and grew up in Mitchellville, Iowa, near Des Moines. After several months there, he decided to enlist in the army, but the draft board rejected him because of his high security rating and sent him back to the University of Chicago.
In spite of those handicaps, Patterson was able to attain processing blanks of circa 0.1 microgram, a very impressive achievement at the time, but now approximately equal to the total amount of sample lead commonly used for isotope analyses. Despite several obvious disadvantages, the method seemed to give reasonable dates on many rocks.