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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Krik Krikorian’s Interview

Nerses “Krik” Krikorian was born in Turkey in 1921. He was brought to North America at the age of four, escaping the aftermath of the Armenian genocide. After graduating from college, Krikorian worked for Union Carbide in Niagara Falls, NY during World War II. In 1946, he was approached to work at Los Alamos to build polonium initiators for one year. He ended up staying in Los Alamos and even helped to write the charter to govern the town. In this interview, he remembers his childhood and experiences as the eldest son in an immigrant family. He also discusses his work at Los Alamos and his involvement in laboratory-to-laboratory cooperation with the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War.

Alfred Nier’s Interview – Part 2

Dr. Alfred Nier was an American physicist well-known for his work on spectrometry. Nier designed the mass spectrometers used for Manhattan Project experiments and his instruments were sent to all of the major Project sites. With his mass spectrometer, Nier helped prove that that U-235 was fissile, not the more abundant isotope U-238. Nier worked for the Kellex Corporation to design and construct the apparatuses used to monitor the separation of Uranium-235 and Uranium-238, as well as leak detectors for the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant. In this interview, Nier discusses his early involvement in the Manhattan Project in New York and the transport of uranium between Project sites. He also discusses his experiences working at both the Nash Garage Building in New York City, and the K-25 Plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

J. Carson Mark’s Interview

Dr. J. Carson Mark joined the Manhattan Project in May 1945 with a delegation of British scientists. He worked in the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, and in 1947, went on to head its Theoretical Division. Mark stayed on after the end of the Second World War as part of the project aimed at developing the hydrogen bomb. In this interview, Mark addresses the challenges involved in making a hydrogen bomb, including the design process and the conflicts between other scientists in the laboratory. He also discusses the Soviet hydrogen bomb, and the problems their project faced, despite Soviet espionage in the United States.

Lew Kowarski’s Interview – Part 1

Lew Kowarski was a Russian-born French physicist who worked as part of the team that discovered that neutrons were emitted in the fission of uranium-235 in the 1930s, setting the groundwork for the use of nuclear chain reactions in the design of the atomic bomb. After the Second World War, Kowarski went on to supervise the first French nuclear reactors and became a staff member of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in 1953. In this interview Kowarski discusses his upbringing in Russia, and the beginnings of his scientific career under Frédéric Joliot-Curie. He also outlines the process through which the splitting of uranium atoms was realized.

Phil Gardner’s Interview

Phil Gardner was in charge of labor recruitment for the Hanford site in a region comprising seven states. He discusses how he worked nonstop to hire workers from of all fields across the country for a project he was told nothing about. Gardner recalls travelling over 100,000 miles by planes, buses, trains, and cars. He worked around bureaucratic obstacles in an effort to satisfy ever-increasing quotas.