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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Siegfried Hecker’s Interview (2018)

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.

David Holloway’s Interview

David Holloway, author of “Stalin and the Bomb: the Soviet Union and Atomic Energy 1939-1956,” is a professor of history at Stanford University. An expert on the international history of nuclear weapons, Dr. Holloway traces the development of the Soviet Union’s nuclear capabilities and policy throughout the Cold War. He discusses the beginnings of the Soviet atomic bomb project in World War II, the rise of the Cold War, and the development of the USSR’s hydrogen bomb. He also offers remarks on the current state of nuclear weapons internationally.

Phillip Broughton’s Interview

Phillip Broughton is a health physicist and Deputy Laser Safety Officer at the University of California, Berkeley. In this interview, he describes how he became a health physicist and the kind of work he does at Berkeley. He provides an overview of the buildings at Berkeley where Manhattan Project scientists worked during the war, and discusses some of the key scientists such as Glenn Seaborg. Broughton also recounts experiences from the year he spent working at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica, where in addition to serving as the science cryogenics handler, he also became the Station’s bartender.

Martin J. Sherwin’s Interview

Martin J. Sherwin is a historian and professor at George Mason University, specializing in the development of atomic weapons and nuclear policy. With Kai Bird, Sherwin co-authored “American Prometheus,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer. In this interview, Sherwin discusses Oppenheimer’s childhood, family life, and personality, including his love of the mountains of New Mexico, and his leadership at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. He also discusses why Oppenheimer did not support building the hydrogen bomb. Sherwin reflects on the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, arguing that the atomic bombs were not necessary to end the war with Japan.

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.

Hanford 25th Anniversary Celebration

This program was recorded at the 25th anniversary of the construction of the B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, in Hanford, WA. Leading Manhattan Project scientists, including Glenn Seaborg, John Wheeler, Lombard Squires, and Norman Hilberry, as well as its military leaders, General Leslie R. Groves and Colonel Franklin Matthias, participated in the ceremony. They discussed the start of the Manhattan Project, how the reactor’s site was chosen, the challenges of building the reactor and the chemical separations plant, and the different processes that were considered to separate plutonium. They also recalled the relationship between the military and civilian scientists and why they became involved in the Manhattan Project to help win World War II. They philosophized on the significance of nuclear power and its potential for future projects, from agriculture to space exploration.

Isabella Karle’s Interview (2005)

The daughter of Polish immigrants, Isabella Karle had received her Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD degrees in physical chemistry from the University of Michigan by the time she was 22 in 1943. With her husband, Jerome Karle, a fellow student and scientist whom she married in 1942, Isabella became a pioneer in the field of science, starting with her work on the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago in 1943. After the war, Isabella and Jerome began work on crystallography at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, where they were employed for over sixty years until their retirement in 2009. In this interview, Isabella discusses the career path she took after high school to become a chemist. She also explains how she came to work for the Manhattan Project in 1943, how she met her husband at the University of Michigan, and the successful careers of other scientists she worked with during the Manhattan Project.

Jerome Karle’s Interview

Jerome Karle worked on plutonium chemistry at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory during the Manhattan Project, along with his wife, Isabella. After the war, Jerome and Isabella worked for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory for almost seventy years. Jerome was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1985. In this interview, Karle explains his chemistry work in the Manhattan Project. He recalls his friendship with Glenn Seaborg, and discusses his opinion on dropping the bombs on Japan.

Colonel Franklin Matthias’s Interview – Part 1 (1965)

Colonel Franklin Matthias was the officer-in-charge at the Hanford site. In this interview, Matthias discusses his early life and his placement as the officer-in-charge at Hanford. He also talks about the relationships between DuPont and the military and the scientists, as well as how cooperation was essential. Matthias remembers the various problems that plagued the Hanford site and how he and his colleagues overcame them.

Norman Brown’s Interview (2005)

Not long after completing his sophomore year at MIT, Norman Brown was recruited into the Manhattan Project. First stationed at Oak Ridge, he was deployed with the Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos. Brown helped process the plutonium that was used in the Trinity test and in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. He discusses barracks life, security at Los Alamos, and his impressions of J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves. He also recounts his efforts to witness the Trinity test and a visit to the memorials at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.