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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

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.

Ralph Lapp’s Interview

Ralph Lapp was completing his PhD in physics at the University of Chicago when he joined the Manhattan Project. After the war, he worked for the War Department and served as a scientific advisor there before leaving the government to start his own firm. Lapp went on to write several books and advocate for peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In this interview, he discusses how he stumbled upon Enrico Fermi’s team working under Stagg’s Field in December of 1942, and was hired on the spot to work on the development of the atomic bomb. Lapp recalls witnessing the 1946 Bikini nuclear tests, and discusses the controversy over the Lucky Dragon boat, caught into the fallout of one of 1954 Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test. He examines how nuclear weapons have changed the course of human history.

Marshall Rosenbluth’s Interview

Marshall Rosenbluth was an American physicist who worked in the theoretical division at Los Alamos from 1950 to 1956. In this interview, Rosenbluth addresses the theoretical issues involved in designing both the atomic and hydrogen bombs. He discusses how the pressure to create a nuclear bomb before the Soviet Union affected work in the laboratory, especially in performing and checking calculations. Rosenbluth also recounts his experiences during the nuclear weapons tests at Los Alamos and Bikini Atoll. He recalls the roles of top scientists, like Edward Teller, Hans Bethe, Enrico Fermi, and Carson Mark, in the building of the hydrogen bomb. He also explains how funding and other external factors affected the hydrogen bomb’s design.

Albert Bartlett’s Interview

Albert Bartlett worked with mass spectrometers at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. He was part of the group that photographed the Operations Crossroads nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll after the war. In this interview, he recalls his time at Los Alamos and his colleagues, including Harry Daghlian and Louis Slotin, who would both die of criticality accidents. He discusses the significance of the colloquia that allowed scientists to share their research on the project. He also recalls fun times including skiing on Sawyer’s Hill, hiking, and dorm parties that used scientific materials to make the punch.

Fay Cunningham’s Interview

Fay Cunningham joined the Manhattan Project in 1944 as a metallurgical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cunningham and his team of engineers helped to develop a mechanized process for producing crucibles that were used in the reduction of uranium and plutonium. After the war, Cunningham served as a radiation monitor for the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll during Operation Crossroads. His job was to survey the radiological damage on navy ships that were positioned around the epicenter of the nuclear explosion. Cunningham recalls climbing cargo nets dangling from the bow of a ship while trying to hold on to a fifteen-pound Geiger counter. After Operation Crossroads, Cunningham returned to Michigan State and completed his degree in chemical engineering.

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.

Orville Hill’s Interview

Chemist Orville Hill joined the Met Lab at the University of Chicago in May of 1942, three months after it was created. After a stint at Oak Ridge, he went to Hanford in 1944. At Hanford, he worked to improve the plutonium separation process. After the war, he worked at Los Alamos and was tasked with studying bomb debris from the Bikini atomic bomb tests. Eventually, he returned to Hanford looking for a better way to separate plutonium from irradiated uranium. In this interview, he recalls his first days at Chicago and remembers meeting Enrico Fermi. He describes the excitement and pressure of the Manhattan Project: “We were on the frontiers. We were doing things that I hadn’t dreamed of doing even a year before.”