Siegfried Hecker is an American nuclear scientist who served as the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1986 to 1997. Today, he is professor emeritus (research) in the Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University and a senior fellow emeritus at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. In this interview, Hecker describes how his family immigrated to the United States from Austria in 1956. He then discusses his time at Los Alamos, including his scientific work and directorship, which took place as the Cold War was coming to a close. Hecker reflects on the American-Russian collaboration funded by the Nunn-Lugar Act during the 1990s and 2000s, as well as the nuclear disarmament of former Soviet republics. He also notes the challenges that American and Russian nuclear scientists face in trying to collaborate today. Hecker also discusses his work on China, Pakistan, Iran, India, and North Korea, where he made seven trips between 2004 and 2010.
Robert Carter spent a year and a half as a graduate student at Purdue University before being recruited to work for the Manhattan Project. At Los Alamos, Carter’s team, which included his close friend Joan Hinton, worked on the research reactor. Eventually, Carter and Hinton came to work closely with Enrico Fermi, who became a mentor and friend to the two of them. Carter fondly recounts his dinners and hikes with Hinton and Fermi, both at Los Alamos and after. After the war, Carter enrolled in graduate courses at University of Illinois before returning to Los Alamos for fifteen years. For the rest of his career, Carter worked for various government agencies before retiring. Carter also discusses his friend Harry Daghlian and advising prominent physicist George Gamow on a project.