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Robert Brode (1900-1986) was an American physicist.

In 1941, at the outset of the war, Robert Brode went to work in the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University to aid the development of the proximity fuse. Two years later, he was placed at Los Alamos and put in charge of a team that was tasked with the creation of a fuse for an atomic bomb that would cause the bomb to detonate at a certain height. Brode’s goal was to construct a fuse that had only the most miniscule chance of failing within 200 ft. of the intended detonation height. After testing both radar proximity fuses and barometric alimeter fuses, Brode’s group decided on a modified Monica tail warning radar fuse that was used successfully on both Little Boy and Fat Man. 

During his stay at Los Alamos, his wife, Bernice Brode, accompanied him and eventually wrote memoirs about their experiences being a part of the Manhattan Project.


Early Life

Robert Brode was born in Walla Walla, Washington in 1900, the son of a professor of biology at Whitman College. After graduating from Whitman College, Brode went on to receive his Ph.D in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1924. After receiving various scholarships and fellowships, Brode became an assistant professor of physics at Berkeley in the late 1920s and a full professor in the early 1930s. He remained there until his placement at Johns Hopkins in 1941.


Later Years

After Los Alamos, Brode returned to his teaching position at Berkeley. In 1950, Brode was one of 12 scientists who petitioned President Truman to ensure that the United States would never be the first nation to use the hydrogen bomb. He remained at Berkeley for the rest of his life and held various positions at the university while maintaining his professorship and research, including being the academic assistant to two of the university’s presidents. Robert Brode died in his Berkeley home in 1986.

Robert Brode's Timeline
1900 Jun 12th Born in Walla Walla, Washington.
1921 Graduated from Whitman College with a Bachelor of Science.
1924 Awarded his Ph.D in physics from California Institute of Technology.
1926 Sep 26th Married Bernice Brode.
1927 Became an assistant professor at Berkeley.
1932 Became a full professor at Berkeley.
1941 Developed the proximity fuse at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.
1943 Moved to Los Alamos to lead a team tasked with developing an atomic bomb fuse.
1950 Brode petitioned President Truman to declared the the U.S. would not be the first to use the hydrogen bomb.
1967 Became professor of physics emeritus at Berkeley.
1986 Feb 19th Died peacefully in Berkeley.

Los Alamos ID.

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