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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Kenneth Bainbridge (1904-1996) was an American physicist.

In September 1940, Bainbridge was the first physicist to be recruited by Ernest Lawrence to the microwave “radio location” project that became the Radiation Laboratory at MIT. His experience at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge was an asset as this activity had begun in close collaboration with British scientists. He oversaw the development of radars of increasing power especially for the Navy. In the spring of 1941, he made a visit to Britain under wartime conditions to observe and report on secret developments there, and learned about British studies for nuclear energy in addition to radar.

In May 1943, Bainbridge was recruited to the nuclear weapons laboratory, “Project Y”, at Los Alamos. He oversaw the first explosion of a nuclear device, the Trinity test. Following the fearsomely successful explosion early in the morning of July 16, 1945, he congratulated J. Robert Oppenheimer and the others, then made his legendary remark, “Now we are all sons of bitches.” Oppenheimer later remarked that this was the best thing anyone had said just after the test.

Bainbridge subsequently was deeply dedicated to the control of nuclear weapons.  He received two letters of commendation from project director General Leslie R. Groves and a Presidential Certificate of Merit for work in the MIT Radiation Laboratory.

Kenneth Bainbridge's Timeline
1904 Jul 27th Born in Cooperstown, New York.
1921 Enrolled in a five-year B.S. and M.S. program in electrical engineering at MIT, spending summers at the GE Research Laboratories at Schenectady.
1926 Continued employment with General Electric, contributing to the development of the television.
19331934 Took leave from Princeton University to study at the Cavendish Laboratory.
1934 Joined the faculty at the Harvard Physics Department.
1936 Built a cyclotron.
19451975 Returned to Harvard, laying plans to replace Harvard's cyclotron and developing an advanced teaching laboratory in nuclear physics.
19501954 Chaired the Harvard physics department.
1975 Retired from Harvard.
1996 Jul 14th Died in Lexington, Massachusetts.
1940 Sep Recruited by Ernest Lawrence to work at the Rad Lab at MIT.
1941 Visited Britain to observe and report on secret developments there, and learned about British research into nuclear energy and radar.
1943 May1945 Worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Helped direct the Trinity test.

Kenneth Bainbridge's Los Alamos ID badge photo

Radio reporter George Cremeens with Kenneth Bainbridge at Trinity, September 1945. Courtesy Howard C. Bush Collection, AHF.

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