Edwin McMillan: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start with two remarks. First, this is going to be a personal story, so if I use the first person singular, this is not pure egotism, it is simply the fact that that’s the part that I know best. Second remark is, the difficulty of establishing facts at such a late date, even of important things. During the Manhattan Project, of course, there was security impressed upon everyone, so very few people kept any notes.
Owen Gingerich: Professor Roy Glauber is a physicist, a physicist who had an early start in physics because when he was still an undergraduate at Harvard, it was during World War II. A mysterious caller knocked on his dormitory door, and asked him if he would want to participate in some unspecified kind of scientific war work. He ended up going to Los Alamos as one of the youngest scientists in that scientific community working to make the atomic bomb. Of course there in Los Alamos, Robert Oppenheimer was the director.
Lee DuBridge: So, yeah, we thought it was an exciting time to have the AEC [Atomic Energy Commission]. We knew, of course, that they were going ahead with the weapon development, but also they were going to support Brookhaven and other research centers around the country. So, no, I think those of us who were not imminently in the Manhattan District, but aware of it, were quite excited about getting in and finding out more about really what was going on and what the new possibilities were, both in physics and in weapon technology.
Martin Sherwin: This is Martin Sherwin. Today is March 29, 1983. I am going to interview Professor Robert F. Bacher – B-a-c-h-e-r – in his office on the Caltech campus in Pasadena.
In 1943, J. Robert Oppenheimer recruited American physicist Robert Bacher to join the Manhattan Project as head of the experimental physics division at Los Alamos. Bacher directed the bomb physics division at Los Alamos from 1944 to 1945, helping oversee the design of the implosion bomb, known as “Fat Man,” that was dropped on Nagasaki. In this interview, Bacher recalls the initial conference of Los Alamos laboratory leadership in 1943 and describes Oppenheimer’s relationships with Enrico Fermi and General Leslie Groves.
Martin Sherwin: I think the opportunity to talk to somebody who served with him on the Harvard—
Edward Purcell: Oh, Harvard, that was the thing. No, this episode I was remembering, which must have been the spring of 1953, when Oppie [J. Robert Oppenheimer] was on the Board of Overseers. At that time, we’d had some trouble in the Congressional investigations in our department. Particularly Wendell Furry, my colleague there, was under fire and had testified before the Jenner Committee or something like that.
Edward Purcell (1912-1997) was an American physicist who won the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, the eventual basis for MRI.
Purcell worked on microwave radiation at the MIT Rad Lab during World War II, and was briefly involved in some of the Trinity test preparations.
Nate Weisenberg: My name is Nathaniel Weisenberg. I am here in Needham, Massachusetts with [Margaret] “Chickie” Broderick, recording this oral history interview for the Atomic Heritage Foundation. It is Monday, April 25, 2016.
My first question for you is where and when were you born?
Margaret Broderick: I was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1921.
Weisenberg: Where in Boston were you born?
Broderick: The Forest Hills Hospital.
Martin Sherwin: Today is March 30, 1983. I am at the CalTech campus and I am going to interview President Emeritus Lee DuBridge at his home in Pasadena.
Lee DuBridge: But we were on many things together and so we saw a good deal of each other. I visited him [J. Robert Oppenheimer] at his home in Princeton a number of times. We had meetings there and we would drop in for social visits and so on.
Sherwin: I would like to sort of try to bore in on some of the points.
Lee DuBridge was the founding director of the Radiation Laboratory at MIT. During World War II the "Rad Lab," as it was commonly known, advanced and accelerated radar development. Under DuBridge's leadership, the Rad Lab became the largest war research laboratory, with an annual budget of $13 million, more than 4,000 staff, and industrial contracts worth $1.5 billion. While not officially part of the Manhattan Project, DuBridge was asked by J. Robert Oppenheimer to troubleshoot issues at Los Alamos because of his experience with the Rad Lab.