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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Edward Melkonian was an American physicist. He was born in Alexandria, Egypt on June 29, 1920, to parents of Armenian heritage who had fled persecution in Turkey.

In 1921, the family moved to the United States, settling in West New York, New Jersey. A gifted student, Melkonian received a scholarship to attend Columbia University in 1937. He graduated from Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1940, and earned his master’s degree the following year. Melkonian studied quantum mechanics under Enrico Fermi.

Melkonian’s pursuit of his Ph.D. was interrupted by the U.S. entry into World War II and the launch of the Manhattan Project. During the war, his research focused on uranium isotope separation. He also worked at the Manhattan Project site at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

After the war, Melkonian completed his Ph.D. While conducting research on Columbia’s cyclotron, he met and married Miriam Levin Melkonian, who had also worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia. He taught nuclear science at Columbia for many years, and also was involved in work at Los Alamos and Brookhaven National Laboratories.

Information contributed by Karen Melkonian, Edward Melkonian’s daughter.

Edward Melkonian's Timeline
1920 Jun 29th Born in Alexandria, Egypt.
1921 Immigrated to the United States with his family and settled in West New York, New Jersey.
1940 Received a B.A. in Physics from Columbia University.
1941 Studied quantum mechanics under Enrico Fermi, and received a M.S. in Physics from Columbia University.
1942 Jul 1st1945 Worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University.
1948 Received a Ph.D. in nuclear science and engineering from Columbia University.
19481985 Served as professor of nuclear science at Columbia University.
1978 Among the first faculty members of the Department of Applied Physics & Nuclear Engineering at Columbia.

Edward Melkonian and his wife, Miriam Levin Melkonian. Photograph courtesy of Karen Melkonian.

Edward Melkonian's Clinton Engineer Works badge. Courtesy of Karen Melkonian.

Back of Edward Melkonian's ID badge, 1945. Courtesy of Karen Melkonian.

Edward Melkonian as a policeman in the 1946 Oak Ridge production of "The Pirates of Penzance." Courtesy of Karen Melkonian.

Pirates of Penzance program

Pirates of Penzance program

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