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He established that lead was the final decay product of uranium, noted that the lead-uranium ratio was greater in older rocks and, acting on a suggestion by Ernest Rutherford, was the first to measure the age of rocks by the decay of uranium to lead, in 1907.He got results of ages of 400 to 2200 million years, the first successful use of radioactive decay by Pb/U chemical dating (isotopes not discovered yet).

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Surface exposure dating is used to date glacial advances and retreats, erosion history, lava flows, meteorite impacts, rock slides, fault scarps, and other geological events.It is most useful for rocks which have been exposed for between 10 years and 30,000,000 years.Chemical etching of polished internal surfaces of these minerals reveals spontaneous fission tracks, and the track density can be determined.Because etched tracks are relatively large (in the range 1 to 15 micrometres), counting can be done by optical microscopy, although other imaging techniques are used.At Earth's surface most of these nuclides are produced by neutron spallation.

Uranium-thorium dating, also called thorium-230 dating, uranium-series disequilibrium dating or uranium-series dating, is a radiometric dating technique commonly used to determine the age of calcium carbonate materials such as speleothem or coral.Fission tracks are sensitive to heat, and therefore the technique is useful at unraveling the thermal evolution of rocks and minerals.Most current research using fission tracks is aimed at: a) understanding the evolution of mountain belts; b) determining the source or provenance of sediments; c) studying the thermal evolution of basins; d) determining the age of poorly dated strata; and e) dating and provenance determination of archeological artifacts. It makes up 0.012% (120 ppm) of the total amount of potassium found in nature.Potassium-40 is a rare example of an isotope that undergoes both types of beta decay.Since the rate at which this conversion occurs is known, it is possible to determine the elapsed time since the mineral formed by measuring the ratio of U, as the source of radiogenic heat.