Beverly Jackson Agnew (1919-2011) was a Manhattan Project veteran and wife of Harold Agnew, the third director of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.
She was born in 1919 in Trinidad, Colorado. She graduated from South Denver High School and received a teaching certificate from the University of Denver. After she married Harold Agnew on May 2, 1942, the couple moved to Chicago for Harold to continue his studies in Physics. Beverly worked as a secretary to Richard Doan, the Metallurgical Laboratory’s administrative officer. She handled the payroll and was instrumental in designing a secure system for safeguarding sensitive documents.
While working as a secretary at the Met Lab, Beverly first met J. Robert Oppenheimer. Her husband Harold would later remark, “The real reason I got to Los Alamos was because Oppie wanted Beverly to be on his payroll, and I was available because of this radiation problem.”
Oppenheimer recruited the Agnews to work at Los Alamos, and they left Chicago in early 1943. Before they arrived in New Mexico, they were sent to disable the Cockcroft-Walton generator and particle accelerator at the University of Illinois in order to ship it to the new laboratory. Beverly recorded all the details to guide reassembly. At Los Alamos, she worked in Oppenheimer’s office and as Robert Bacher’s secretary.
After the war, the couple returned to Chicago, where Harold finished his graduate work under Enrico Fermi. Due to a post-war housing shortage in the Chicago area, the Agnews lived at the Fermis’ home during this period.
After Harold completed his Ph.D., the Agnews returned to Los Alamos. Harold continued his work at the laboratory there, eventually serving as the third director of LANL from 1970-1979. Both Beverly and Harold were active in local and state politics. She was a member of the New Mexico Board of Education.
Beverly Agnew died on October 11, 2011 in Solana Beach, California. She is buried with her husband at the Guaje Pines Cemetery in Los Alamos, New Mexico.