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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Inge-Juliana Sackmann Christy’s Interview

Inge-Juliana Sackmann Christy is a physicist and author. She was born in Germany in 1942 and immigrated to Canada in the 1950s. She later married physicist Robert Christy, who was an important member of the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Sackmann Christy describes details from her early life, how she met Robert Christy, the personalities of famous Caltech scientists such as Richard Feynman, and German physicists’ perspectives on the atomic bomb.

Raymond Sheline’s Interview (2009)

Raymond Sheline was a chemist at Columbia University and a member of the Special Engineer Detachment at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos. After graduating from college in 1942, Sheline received a telegram from Harold Urey inviting him to join the Manhattan Project at Columbia. His group at the university focused on resolving problems caused by corrosion during the gaseous diffusion process. After being drafted into the Army, Sheline was sent to Oak Ridge and Los Alamos as a member of the Special Engineer Detachment. At Los Alamos, he contributed to work on the trigger for the plutonium bomb. In this interview, Sheline discusses his early life and educational background. He describes memories from growing up in Ohio and from his time studying Chemistry at Bethany College. He also explains his time in the U.S. Army and how he came to work with the SED. Sheline then recalls how he met his wife Yvonne. Lastly, Sheline discusses his life after earning his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, including briefly working in Germany, working at the University of Chicago, how his career began at Florida State University, and his time researching in Copenhagen.

Glenn Schweitzer’s Interview

Glenn Schweitzer is the director of the Program on Central Europe and Eurasia at the National Academy of Sciences. In this interview, Schweitzer discusses his distinguished career in international scientific cooperation. He began as a Foreign Service Officer in Yugoslavia before moving on to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and then the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Schweitzer later worked for the Environmental Protection Agency at the Nevada Test Site. From 1992-1994, he served as the first director of the newly created International Science and Technology Center in Moscow. Schweitzer extensively explains the lessons and legacies of these scientific cooperation efforts, including their applicability to dealing with current issues with Iran and North Korea.

Richard Rhodes’ Interview (2018)

Richard Rhodes is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” “The Twilight of the Bombs,” “Dark Sun,” and “Energy: A Human History,” as well as more than twenty other books. In this interview, Rhodes expounds on the character of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the inevitability of discovering nuclear fission, the development of the hydrogen bomb, nuclear proliferation and the Cold War arms race, and the relationship between the Soviet Union and United States. He also discusses his play “Reykjavik,” based on the 1986 meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.

Gary Petersen’s Interview

Gary Petersen is the former vice president of federal programs for TRIDEC, the Tri-City Development Council, which works to promote economic growth for Washington State’s Tri-Cities (Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland) area. Before TRIDEC, he worked at the Hanford site for Battelle, serving as news manager, and in the International Nuclear Safety Program at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. In this interview, Petersen discusses the studies Hanford conducted in biology and health physics, the continuing cleanup of the Hanford site, and the future of radioactive waste disposal. Additionally, he discusses his involvement in producing the book Nuclear Legacy: Students of Two Atomic Cities, that looked at the connections between Richland, WA and Slavutych, Ukraine through the perspectives of American and Ukrainian students.

Michele Gerber’s Interview (2018)

Michele Gerber is the author of “On the Home Front: The Cold War Legacy of the Hanford Nuclear Site” and served as the official Hanford Site historian. In this interview, she discusses her role as a local consultant on the Center for Disease Control’s research about the potential health effects of emissions from Hanford on residents. Gerber also describes her efforts to declassify the Hanford site documents. Additionally, she talks about how the United States learned the USSR acquired the bomb and explains the negative health implications of the Green Run test. She also discusses other sources of environmental pollution at Hanford, including in the soil and the Columbia River, and the health impacts on Downwinders.

Phillip Broughton’s Interview

Phillip Broughton is a health physicist and Deputy Laser Safety Officer at the University of California, Berkeley. In this interview, he describes how he became a health physicist and the kind of work he does at Berkeley. He provides an overview of the buildings at Berkeley where Manhattan Project scientists worked during the war, and discusses some of the key scientists such as Glenn Seaborg. Broughton also recounts experiences from the year he spent working at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica, where in addition to serving as the science cryogenics handler, he also became the Station’s bartender.

Kevin Clarno’s Interview

Kevin Clarno is a group leader in reactor physics and a distinguished R&D staff member at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). He is also the former director of the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors at ORNL. In his interview, Clarno explains how he became interested in science and technology while growing up in Texas. He discusses his work with models that can forecast the longevity of nuclear reactors around the United States. Clarno advocates for the continued exploration into the field of nuclear energy, and stresses the importance of an informed public on the topic.

Richard Meservey’s Interview

Richard “Dick” Meservey is a nuclear physicist who worked at Idaho National Laboratory (INL). In this interview, he describes the rewarding projects he worked on at INL including the Special Power Excursion Reactor Test and the Advanced Test Reactor. He lauds the unusual freedom that scientists enjoyed working in Idaho Falls, and explains why he came to love living in Idaho Falls.

Thomas Cormier’s Interview

Thomas Cormier is a nuclear physicist who leads the Large Hadron Collider Heavy Ion Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In this interview, Cormier describes how he became interested in science at a young age. He then discusses his work at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, on experiments such as ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment). Cormier underscores the importance of such testing, explaining how it offers insight into the formation of our universe. He concludes by describing future plans for the construction of even larger particle accelerators and the scientific and societal challenges involved in undertaking such endeavors.