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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

George Warren Reed’s Interview (2006)

George Warren Reed (1920-2015) was a chemist at the Chicago Met Lab during World War II. He primarily researched fission yields of uranium and thorium to determine their viability for a nuclear chain reaction. Reed was one of the few African American scientists to work on the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Reed talks with his son Mark Morrison-Reed about family life, sabbatical, the riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., work on the Manhattan Project, retirement, and his positions at Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory.

Ronald E. Mickens’ Interview

Ronald E. Mickens is a physicist who currently teaches at Clark Atlanta University. He is a prominent voice in the African-American scientific community, and has written several works documenting the feats of previous black physicists. He was friendly with several African-American scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, including J. Ernest Wilkins, and describes their careers and the racism they faced. Mickens also discusses his own career, the importance of curiosity to scientific research, and the challenges African-American scientists have had to overcome to pursue their research.

Samuel Beall Jr.’s Interview

Sam Beall is an American nuclear engineer. During the Manhattan Project, he worked for the DuPont Company at the Chicago Met Lab, Oak Ridge, TN, and Hanford, WA. After the war, he stayed at Oak Ridge and ultimately became head of the Reactor Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). In this interview, Beall discusses his involvement with various nuclear reactors at Oak Ridge and recalls his friendship with former ORNL director Alvin Weinberg. He also describes his childhood in Richland, Georgia.

Theodore Petry’s Interview

Ted Petry was recruited for the Manhattan Project after graduating from high school. He worked as a lab assistant at the Chicago Met Lab and witnessed the Chicago Pile-1 going critical for the first time. In this interview, Petry discusses his experience working at the Met Lab, and working under Enrico Fermi. He explains how the crew planed graphite blocks, and worked on the Chicago Pile operations. He reflects back on the twentieth anniversary celebrations of the Chicago Pile-1 and meeting President John F. Kennedy at the White House at the time.

William J. Nicholson’s Interview

William J. Nicholson grew up in Chicago, with a strong interest in aviation and aeronautics. During the Manhattan Project he worked as an assistant at the Met Lab. He then served in the Army Air Force. In this interview, Nicholson discusses his childhood and school years spent in Chicago. He then explains how he joined the Manhattan Project out of high school. He recalls the secrecy of the work, and describes working with and machining uranium and other metals. Nicholson remembers Edward Creutz, Enrico Fermi, Walter Zinn, and other scientists he worked with. He explains why he wanted to leave Manhattan Project work to join the Air Force, and describes flying bombers over Europe and being shot down by the Germans. He ends by discussing his life and career after the war.

Harris Mayer’s Interview

Harris Mayer is an American physicist. A student of both Edward Teller and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, he worked at Columbia University during the Manhattan Project. He moved to Los Alamos in 1947 to work at the Los Alamos laboratory, and his early work contributed to the development of the hydrogen bomb. In this interview, Mayer discusses his close friendships with other scientists and his work on the Operation Greenhouse nuclear tests. He shares stories about Teller, Frederick Reines, and Richard Feynman, and recalls attempting to mediate the conflict between Teller and Hans Bethe.

Suzanne Langsdorf’s Interview

Suzanne Martyl Langsdorf is the daughter of Alexander Langsdorf, a Manhattan Project physicist and one of the founders of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Martyl Langsdorf, an artist who designed the iconic Doomsday Clock. In this interview, Suzanne describes her parents’ personalities and interests, their family life together, and the homes they lived in during her childhood. She gives a closer look at the lives of her parents including how they met, their marriage, and their respective careers. Suzanne recalls her unique childhood with her thoughtful father and her independent mother. She also explains how her mother came up with the now-famous Doomsday Clock design, and her father’s nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

Richard Garwin’s Interview

Richard Garwin is an American physicist. In this interview he begins by discussing his work with Enrico Fermi after the Second World War. He then discusses the development of the hydrogen bomb and the role he played in its design. He also talks about his work at IBM in the 1950s, specifically IBM’s research on radar systems and Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS). Garwin concludes the interview with a discussion on nuclear security. He shares his views on nuclear arms reduction and how to create a nuclear-free world.

Abe Krash’s Interview

Abe Krash is an American attorney. He was the editor of The Chicago Maroon, the student newspaper, at the University of Chicago during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, he recalls how he ran afoul of Manhattan Project security regulations after the Maroon published an article about physicist and Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory director Arthur Compton. Krash discusses the impact Robert Maynard Hutchins had as the president of the University of Chicago and his interactions with Lawrence Kimpton, the Chicago Met Lab’s chief administrative officer. He concludes by discussing his career as an attorney with the firm Arnold and Porter.

Richard Money’s Interview

Richard “Dick” Money was a chemist. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago, where he was introduced to the Manhattan Project’s Metallurgical Laboratory. He was hired by the Met Lab and sent to work for Clinton Laboratories in Oak Ridge, TN during the Manhattan Project. He went on to work for Los Alamos National Laboratory for many years and then became a science and math teacher. In his interview, Money discusses how he became involved in the Manhattan Project and his jobs and responsibilities while working in these secret labs. He describes his post-war involvement with the Bikini Atoll tests and the Rover program at Los Alamos. Money also explains various scientific and chemical innovations made during the Manhattan Project and Cold War, as well as radiation accidents and safety procedures developed in response to the lab accidents. Finally, Money shares about his personal life and his transition from the laboratory to the classroom.