J. Carson Mark was a Canadian-American mathematician.
Mark was born in 1913 in Lindsay, Ontario. He received a B.S from the University of Western Toronto and a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Toronto. He went on to teach at the University of Manitoba and to work for the Canadian National Research Council in Montreal.
In 1945, Mark was asked to join the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos by J. Robert Oppenheimer, who had noticed his work in Montreal. Two years later, Mark was named the director of the Theoretical (T) Division, a position previously held by Hans Bethe. During his time at Los Alamos, Mark primarily researched hydrodynamics, neutron physics, and transport theory. He would later speak out against the secrecy of the time, saying, “We shouldn’t have been making this damn bomb without trying to keep it secret from [Joseph] Stalin. We should’ve been talking to him like [Niels] Bohr said. [Klaus] Fuchs believed and took it into his own hands to make sure that the conversation went on. Of course, he didn’t need to because Stalin knew anyway. Not the technical details, but the general facts.”
As a leader, Mark reorganized the outlook of the T Division to collaborate more with outside agencies. He also headed the “Panda Committee” which would build the hydrogen bomb and conduct its first test, Ivy Mike, in 1952. As Hans Bethe remembered, “the first invention that made [the hydrogen bomb] go was due to Stanislaw Ulam” while “[Edward] Teller then completed and extended the invention,” thus “Carson was the mediator between two people who really didn’t like each other.”
Mark retired from full-time work at Los Alamos in 1973, although he continued to work there as a consultant. He would go on to serve with Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards as well as becoming an active member in the American Mathematical Society and the American Physical Society. He would also become a vocal proponent of nonproliferation and disarmament.
Mark died on March 2, 1997, in Los Alamos.