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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

James Oliver Buchanan (1920-2001) was born on June 30, 1920 in Chicago, Illinois. He received his B.S (1941), M.S. (1942) and Ph.D. (1948) degrees in physics from Yale University.

From 1944 to 1946, Dr. Buchanan was a civilian research physicist stationed at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory with the Manhattan Project. He worked as an Assistant Group Leader for Luis Alvarez on implosion of the “Fat Man” atomic bomb. He participated in the application of explosive techniques and neutron measurements. His wife, Caroline “Muffy” Buchanan, was also stationed at the Manhattan Project and worked as a secretary.

Dr. Buchanan taught physics at West Virginia University from 1948 to 1956. He then re-entered service in the Federal government. Among the positions held by Dr. Buchanan over the next 34 years were:

· Director, Weapons Effects Division (Federal Civil Defense Administration/FCDA) – planned and administered research on the impact of nuclear weapons effects on people and structures.

· Senior Physicist, Technical Operations, Inc. (private industry, 1962-1963) – conducted research on the hydrodynamics of nuclear explosions and on fallout models.

· Director, Shelter Research Division (Office of Civil Defense/OCD) – formulated and administered shelter research programs involving protection from radiation, fire, and blast effects from nuclear weapons.

· Deputy Assistant Director for Research, and then Assistant Director (Defense Civil Preparedness Agency/DCPA)

At the time of his retirement from the Federal government in 1980, Dr. Buchanan was the Assistant Associate Director for National Security Research for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). He formulated and administered the FEMA R&D program in national security and civil defense.

From 1981 to 1994, he was a Senior Research Analyst at the Center for Planning & Research, Inc., and conducted analytical studies on civil defense systems, nuclear weapons effects and countermeasures.

He was a member of Sigma Xi, a scientific professional fraternity.


Information provided by Ann Buchanan Grove.

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