Nuclear Museum Logo
Nuclear Museum Logo

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Warren Nyer (1921-2016) was an American physicist.

Nyer was nineteen and studying physics at the University of Chicago when he was hired as a research assistant with the Office of Scientific Research and Development, an early part of the bomb-building program. Although he did not have an undergraduate degree, Nyer traveled the circuit of the Plutonium Project: Chicago; Oak Ridge; Hanford; Los Alamos; and Trinity.

Nyer worked on the construction of exponential piles with Enrico Fermi. These piles were an important step in the development of Chicago Pile-1, the first self-sustained and controlled nuclear reaction in history. Nyer was present when Chicago Pile-1 went critical on December 2, 1942.

After Chicago, Nyer worked on the construction of the X-10 Graphite Reactor in Oak Ridge for a year. He then moved to Hanford at the request of DuPont, where he helped prepare equipment and measure radioactivity levels at B Reactor.

With the B Reactor running in February 1945, Nyer decided it was time to move on. He told Arthur Compton that he wanted to go to Los Alamos. Compton called J. Robert Oppenheimer and arranged for Nyer to get a job in Los Alamos. In Los Alamos, Nyer conducted multiplication experiments on U-235 and plutonium in preparations for the Trinity Test. He conducted experiments in Alamogordo before the test and was part of a group of physicists responsible for measuring the blast.

After the war, Nyer headed a small, experimental physics group at the Materials Test Reactor at the National Reactor Testing Station (now called the Idaho National Laboratory). He later became a manage­ment consultant to electric utility firms.

Nyer died on February 4, 2016 at the age of 94. According to his son Michael, he was the last living member of the group that worked directly under Enrico Fermi at the Chicago Metallurgical Lab.

Warren Nyer's Timeline
1921 Nov 18th Born In Evanston, Illinois.
1941 Hired by Arthur Compton as a work-study at the University of Chicago.
1942 Dec 2nd Was present when CP-1 went critical.
1943 May Transferred to Oak Ridge.
1944 Jul Transferred to Hanford.
1944 Sep 26th B Reactor goes on-line at Hanford, WA.
1945 Feb Transferred to Los Alamos.
1945 Jul 16th First nuclear device detonated at the Trinity Site in New Mexico.
1946 Conducted research at the University of California.
1946 Went back to the University of Chicago for a year to complete his B.S.
1947 Went back to Los Alamos.
1951 Headed a small, experimental physics group at the Materials Test Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory.
2016 Feb 4th Died at the age of 94 in Idaho Falls, ID.

Related Profiles

C. E. Starns

Hanford, WA

Nathalie S. Baumbach

Chicago, IL

Nathalie Baumbach was an American chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project. Baumbach majored in chemistry at the University of California Los Alamos.

M. B. Dieson

Research & Development/300 Area

M. B. Dieson worked at the 300 Area at Hanford during the Manhattan Project.

Martin Moeller

Washington, DC

Martin Moeller is the Senior Curator at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., where the exhibition “Secret Cities: The Architecture and Planning of the Manhattan Project” opened in 2018.