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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Bernard T. Feld was a research associate at the University of Chicago’s Metallurgical Laboratory (“Met Lab”) during the Manhattan Project. He also worked at Oak Ridge and the Los Alamos Laboratory at the University of California.

In 1941, he took a break from his graduate studies to join physicists Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard at the Met Lab. Two years later, in 1943, Feld left the Met Lab to go to work at the Oak Ridge Tennessee site of the Manhattan Project. 

At Oak Ridge, Feld helped design and construct the experimental atomic pile and separation facilities. By the end of 1943, Oak Ridge successfully manufactured the first milligrams of plutonium from uranium.

Following his time at Oak Ridge, he went to the University of California, Berkeley to work in its Los Alamos Laboratory. From 1944 to 1946, Feld served as Assistant Group Leader of Critical Assemblies. At the Los Alamos Laboratory, he contributed to the development of the experimental plutonium bomb later tested at Trinity Site


Early Years

On December 12, 1919, Bernard T. Feld was born in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of fifteen, he entered the City College of New York (CCNY).

Although he entered CCNY as a history major, he changed his focus to physics and graduated with a B.S. in physics in 1939. After graduation, Feld decided to pursue his Ph.D. at Columbia University.

While at Columbia, Feld studied as a graduate student and worked as a teaching assistant to physicists Fermi and Isidor I. Rabi


Later Years

After World War II, Feld returned to Columbia to finish his Ph.D., which he received in 1945. After receiving his Ph.D., Feld spent six months in Washington, D.C. lobbying with other leading physicists against the military’s control of nuclear research and weapons development.

As a result of their lobbying efforts, the civilian Atomic Energy Agency was established. This agency was committed to peaceful uses of atomic power and to preventing nuclear warfare.

Feld remained a strong advocate for nuclear disarmament throughout the rest of his life. In 1981 at an event before a New Hampshire group, Feld expressed his views on nuclear weapons: ‘Nuclear weapons aren’t good for anything and it’s up to all of us to get this message across and reverse the current trends. To me, the use of a nuclear weapon is not only irrational, it’s immoral.’

At the talk, he also addressed his feelings of guilt for having been a part of designing the atomic bomb: ‘Having been involved in the original sin, I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to atone for it.’

In 1946, he was appointed as a physics instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Working his way up through the department, he became a professor at MIT in 1955.

Between 1961 and 1962, Feld served as acting director of MIT’s Laboratory of Nuclear Science (LNS). He became about the LNS Steering Committee from 1975 to 1982.

From 1975 until 1980, Feld served as head of the physics department’s Division of Nuclear and High-Energy Physics. He retired from MIT in 1990. 

Outside of academia, Feld was a proficient writer and editor for a variety of scientific, professional journals, such as the Bulletin of the Atomic ScientistsHe also wrote two books, Neutron Physics (1954) and Models of Elementary Particles (1969).

 At the age of seventy-three, Bernard T. Feld died on February 19, 1993 in Brooklyn. New York. 


For more information about Bernard T. Feld, please see the following references:

Bernard T. Feld's Timeline
1919 Dec 21st Born in Brooklyn, New York.
1935 Entered the City College of New York (CCNY) at fifteen years old.
1939 Graduated from CCNY with a B.S. in physics.
1939 Began his Ph.D. studies at Columbia University.
19411943 Worked as a research associate at the Met Lab.
19431944 Worked at Oak Ridge.
19441946 Served as Assistant Group Leader of Critical Assemblies at the Los Alamos Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley.
1945 Became a consultant to the Physics Department of the Brookhaven National Laboratory.
1945 Lobbied for nuclear disarmament and against the military's control over nuclear research and weapons development in Washington, D.C.
1946 Became an instructor at MIT.
1948 Became an assistant professor at MIT.
1952 Became an associate professor at MIT.
1954 Published his first book, Neutron Physics.
1955 Promoted to professor at MIT.
19611962 Served as acting director of MIT's Laboratory of Nuclear Science.
19611966 Served on the Cambridge Electron Accelerator Executive Committee.
1961 Became chairman of the Scientific Subcommittee.
1969 Published his second book, Experimental Nuclear Physics.
19751980 Served as the head of the MIT physics department's Division of Nuclear and High-Energy Physics.
19751982 Held a position on the MIT Laboratory of Nuclear Science's Steering Committee.
1968 Became a member of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' Board of Directors.
19741977 Served as Secretary General of Pugwash.
1975 Awarded the Leo Szilard Award for Physics in the Public Interest from the American Physical Society.
1976 Became editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
1990 Retired from MIT.
1993 Feb 19th At the age of seventy-three, died in Brooklyn, New York.

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