George Mallinckrodt was a physicist at the Manhattan Project’s Los Alamos, NM facility. He also worked at Argonne National Laboratory, the successor of the University of Chicago’s Metallurgical Laboratory (“Met Lab”).
While working as a physicist at Los Alamos, Mallinckrodt befriended Keaton Keller, a chemist at Los Alamos, and his brother Rex Edward Keller, a member of the Special Engineer Detachment (SED) in the Chemistry Division.
In his interview on the Voices of the Manhattan Project website, Rex Keller recalled riding in Mallinckrodt’s 1940 Mercury and described a picture taken of the group of friends during the winter time: “We would ride around with George in his Mercury. That is where that picture was taken, in the snow. We were going to a gunsmith. I think Ackley was his name. But they liked hunting guns and so forth. It was just something to do. We would all ride around. Ralph Nobles sent the picture. We were up high there. We were in George’s car. We would ride around some that way.”
According to Keller, Mallinckrodt was married by the time he came to Los Alamos and too old to serve in the SEDs. Keller, on the other hand, was younger and drafted into the SEDs after coming to Los Alamos as a civilian worker.
In 1920, George Elliot Mallinckrodt was born in St. Louis, Missouri. He attended Milton Academy before studying physics at Yale University. He graduated from Yale in 1943. At Yale, he was also a member of the St. Elmo’s Society and on the tennis and wrestling teams.
George was also the son of Edward Mallinckrodt, Jr. and grandson of Edward Mallinckrodt, Sr., who founded Mallinckrodt Chemical Works in St. Louis. Mallinckrodt Chemical produced enriched uranium for the Manhattan Project.
Most notably, Mallinckrodt Chemical provided the enriched uranium for the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction at Pile-1 in University of Chicago’s Metallurgical Laboratory on December 2, 1942. More infamously, the company is known for its dumping of nuclear waste into Coldwater Creek. For more information about the connection between Mallinckrodt Chemical Works and the Manhattan Project, click here.
In the book, Westmoreland and Portland Places: The History and Architecture of America’s Premier Private Streets, 1888-1988, George Conant, a childhood neighbor, described Mallinckrodt as ‘a genius, but he was also a little strange.’ This strangeness was based on Conant’s observation ‘that George was happiest when he was using that master inventiveness of his to go us guys one better.’ (Hunter, p. 69). Contant provided an example with a memory of roller skating in the neighborhood:
‘For example, when all of got roller skates, George disappeared into his secret third floor lab at Number 16 and we didn’t see him for days. He never allowed any of us into his lab and we knew that if we didn’t see him for a few days he was working on some big project. As we were skating with delight one day up and down the streets of Portland and Westmoreland, here came George with skates connected to a back pack equipped with an automobile battery. He had wires run all up his trouser leg. And would you believe it? George had designed a pair of battery-powered roller skates! He had to top us with that big brain of his.’ (Hunter, p. 69)
Following World War II, Mallinckrodt returned to St. Louis to work at his family’s company. After forming a small research company, he founded Paradynamics, Incorporated, a mechanical and electrical research firm, in 1956. Mallinckrodt served as the president of his company.
At the age of forty-eight, George Elliot Mallinckrodt died in a plane crash over South Royalston, MA on July 10, 1968. Mallinckrodt was piloting a small plane from Old Forge, NY to Cape Cod, MA when the plane exploded.
For more information about George Mallinckrodt, please see the following references:
- Boston Globe: Article About Mallinckrodt and Plane Crash
- Westmoreland and Portland Places: The History and Architecture of America’s Premier Private Streets, 1888-1988 by Julius K. Hunter
- Local Statesman interview with Keller – includes snow photograph
- Rex Edward Keller’s Interview on the Voices of the Manhattan Project website