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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

General Leslie Groves’s Interview – Part 7

In this interview, Groves discusses the relationship between Harold Urey and John Dunning, the two scientists who were in charge of developing the barrier material for the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge, TN. Groves compares the personalities of the two scientists. Groves also explains the hierarchy of the scientists and administrators in Manhattan who were working on uranium enrichment.

Crawford Greenewalt’s Interview

Crawford Greenewalt was an American chemical engineer for the Dupont Company who acted as the liaison between the physicists at the Chicago Met Lab and the company’s engineers in Wilmington, Delaware during the Manhattan Project. The challenge was to translate the scientists’ theoretical ideas into workable blueprints for the production of plutonium on a massive scale at the B Reactor being built in Hanford, WA. In this interview, Greenewalt discusses his role as a member of DuPont’s review committee, which evaluated the different methods of fissile material production. Greenewalt, who was present at the University of Chicago when the first artificial self-sustaining nuclear reaction was set off, recalls the relatively calm atmosphere in the laboratory that day.

John Arnold’s Interview

John Arnold joined the Manhattan Project in 1943 when the MED tasked his employer, the Kellogg Corporation, with developing a special barrier for the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge. Arnold discusses his role as director of research and development and process engineering at the plant, where he supervised the assembly and testing of what would become the K-25 plant. In his interview, Arnold describes the challenges of creating a suitable barrier that could withstand the corrosive effects of uranium hexafluoride gas while remaining porous enough to allow smaller atoms of uranium-235 to pass through.

Harold Urey’s Interview

Dr. Harold Urey was an American physical chemist and winner of the 1934 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on deuterium and heavy water. Urey worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University, overseeing the development of the gaseous diffusion method and the production of a suitable barrier for the separation of uranium isotopes. He discusses working with numerous colleagues, including Arthur Compton, Enrico Fermi, and General Leslie Groves. He also discusses his early life, his education, and his work following the war.

General Leslie Groves’s Interview – Part 4

In this interview, General Groves talks about his responsibilities as the director of the Manhattan Project as well as the responsibilities of his subordinates, including Colonel Kenneth D. Nichols and General Thomas Farrell. Groves also discusses the relationship that he had with Vannevar Bush and James B. Conant and their role in the Project as administrators and science advisors.

Percival Keith’s Interview

Percival Keith was the head of the Kellex Corporation. In his interview, he discusses the recruitment of top scientists and engineers, including George Watts, Manson Benedict, and Ludwig Skog. He was tasked with constructing the gaseous diffusion plant for uranium isotope separation. Keith focuses on the decision to abandon the flat barrier design for the tube model, and how doing so was instrumental in finishing the project.

General Leslie Groves’s Interview – Part 3

In this interview, General Groves describes his first few weeks as the director of the Manhattan Project. He discusses his visits to the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and Columbia University to meet with some of the top scientists who would be working on the project, including Arthur Compton and Dobie Keith.

Elliot Charney’s Interview

In this interview, Elliot Charney discusses his involvement in developing the barrier material for the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge, TN. Charney worked with Norris and Adler at Columbia University to develop a barrier that would be suitable for the separation of U-235 from U-238. Charney describes some of the problems that arose during the project and explains the urgency of his work.