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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Richard Rhodes’ Interview (2018)

Richard Rhodes is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” “The Twilight of the Bombs,” “Dark Sun,” and “Energy: A Human History,” as well as more than twenty other books. In this interview, Rhodes expounds on the character of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the inevitability of discovering nuclear fission, the development of the hydrogen bomb, nuclear proliferation and the Cold War arms race, and the relationship between the Soviet Union and United States. He also discusses his play “Reykjavik,” based on the 1986 meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.

To Fermi ~ with Love – Part 2

Laura Fermi discusses the family’s decision to leave Italy in 1938 in the wake of the government’s support for anti-Semitic laws. The program describes Enrico winning the Nobel Prize for Physics. Herb Anderson, Fermi’s associate at Columbia University in New York, remembers Fermi’s arrival to the city and move to Chicago to work in the Chicago Met Lab. Fermi explains how scientists agreed to keep the Manhattan Project secret. The interviewees also recall working on the Chicago Pile-1. Anderson, George Weil, and others also describe Fermi’s most distinctive qualities: his energy, willingness to collaborate, and informal approach.

Peter Galison’s Interview

Peter Galison is the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor in History of Science and Physics at Harvard University. The central component of Galison’s work involves the exploration of twentieth century physics, including atomic, nuclear, and particle physics. In this interview, Galison discusses the two pillars of twentieth century physics, relativity theory and quantum physics, and how these foundational ideas played a role in the development of the atomic bomb. Galison also explains the basic principles of nuclear fission and the scaling up of this technology into a nuclear production reactor. Finally, Galison explains physics as a closely interconnected set of scientific subcultures based on experimenters, instrument makers, and theorists and how these played a significant role in the Manhattan Project.