Bertrand Goldschmidt was a French chemist, who worked at the University of Chicago’s Metallurgical Laboratory (“Met Lab”) during the Manhattan Project. He was the only Frenchman to work on the Manhattan Project. Goldschmidt has been referred to as the father of the French atomic bomb.
Goldschmidt served as a chemistry consultant to the Met Lab. Working with Chemistry Section leader Glenn T. Seaborg, Goldschmidt helped develop the PUREX aqueous nuclear reprocessing technique. This technique continues to be a widely used method for recovering uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel.
Bertrand Goldschmidt was born on November 2, 1912 in France. He studied chemistry at the Radium Institute and earned his Ph.D. from the Institute in 1939.
After earning his Ph.D., Goldschmidt became a professor at the Radium Institute. His tenure, however, only lasted until 1940, the year the Vichy government began to forbid Jews from holding academic positions.
Shortly following his dismissal, he joined the Free French Forces.
Following World War II, Goldschmidt began working at the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). From 1946 to 1959, he served as the head of the chemistry division. He eventually became the head of external relations and planning at the CEA.
During his time at the CEA, Goldschmidt helped foster early French-Israeli nuclear ties and commercial exchanges of both nuclear technology and policy development. In 1954, he traveled to Israel to meet with Prime Minister David Ben Gurion regarding nuclear issues.
From 1956 to 1957, Goldschmidt and a few other senior CEA officials participated in French-Israeli nuclear negotiations. The establishment of the Dimona nuclear facility in Israel was the result of these negotiations.
Goldschmidt served as the French Governor on the Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for twenty-two years and the Chairman of the IAEA for one year.
In 1967, Goldschmidt was awarded the “Atoms for Peace” award by Atoms for Peace, Inc. During his lifetime, he wrote several books. Two of the most notable were The Atomic Complex (1982) and Pioneers of the Atom (1987).
At the age of eight-nine, Bertrand Goldschmidt died on June 11, 2002 in Paris, France.
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