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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Bruce Cameron Reed’s Interview

Bruce Cameron Reed is a physicist and a professor at Alma College. In this interview, he discusses a course he teaches at Alma about nuclear weapons and the Manhattan Project. He explains how he became interested in the physics and history of the Manhattan Project. He provides an overview of some of the challenges the Manhattan Project scientists faced and why uranium, plutonium, and polonium are so difficult to work with. Reed describes some of the innovations of the project, including the implosion design and lenses, the tamper, and the polonium initiator. He concludes by sharing his thoughts on some of the ethical issues related to nuclear weapons.

Milton Levenson’s Interview

Milton Levenson is an American chemical engineer and former president of the American Nuclear Society who has worked in the nuclear energy field for more than 60 years. During the Manhattan Project, he worked at Decatur, IL, and Oak Ridge, TN, where he was a supervisor at the X-10 plant. In this interview, he describes how he joined the Manhattan Project and his experiences at Oak Ridge, including his memories of segregation there. Levenson then talks about his post-war career as an expert on nuclear safety, including his role in responding to the SL-1, Three Mile Island, and Chernobyl accidents. He also recalls having to tell Enrico Fermi that he could not perform an experiment for safety reasons.

Robert Kupp’s Interview

Robert Kupp received mysterious orders to report to Knoxville, Tennessee just before he was shipped out to the Pacific Theater, and joined the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge. He was assigned to work as a supervisor in the Line Recorder Department at the K-25 Plant. He discusses life at Oak Ridge and the security and secrecy involved in working on the project. Kupp went on to a prestigious career as a nuclear engineer.

Tom Scolman’s Interview

Tom Scolman arrived in Los Alamos shortly after receiving his PhD in physics from the University of Minnesota under renowned physicist Alfred Nier. At Los Alamos, Scolman worked in the Weapons Division where and a team of physicists helped assemble and test explosives that would be used in nuclear devices. After the war, Scolman worked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory and presided over hundreds of nuclear tests in the South Pacific, Nevada, and Amchitka. Scolman was also a member of a group that responded to weapons accidents; he recalls several instances where planes carrying nuclear weapons crashed but luckily did not explode.