The Manhattan Project

Chicago Met Lab

Theodore Petry's Interview

Cindy Kelly: Okay. I’m Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, and I’m in Orland Park, Illinois. It is Tuesday, March 13, 2018, and I have with me Theodore Petry. My first question for him is to say his full name and to spell it.

Ted Petry: Theodore Frank Petry, Jr. The name Theodore is T-h-e-o-d-o-r-e, and F for Frank, and Petry, of course, capital P-e-t-r-y, and Junior.

Kelly: First, I just want to know something about where you were born, when you were born, and a little bit about your family.

Samuel Beall Jr.'s Interview

Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. It is Thursday, April 26, 2018, and I’m in Knoxville, Tennessee with Sam Beall. First question for you is to say your full name and spell it.

Sam Beall: My full name is Samuel Erasmus Beall, B-e-a-l-l. Some people call “Beale,” we call “Bell.”

Kelly: Okay, great. So, Sam, tell me about yourself. When were you born and where?

Beall: It was in 1919, and I will be 99 in just about three weeks.

Kelly: Wow. Congratulations.

Samuel Beall Jr.

Samuel Beall Jr. is a nuclear engineer who worked on the Manhattan Project at Chicago, IL, Oak Ridge, TN, and Hanford, WA.

Beall was born in 1919 in Plains, Georgia, and grew up in the nearby town of Richland. He graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1942 with a degree in electrical engineering and was hired by the DuPont Company.

Theodore Petry

Ted Petry was recruited for the Manhattan Project after graduating from high school. He worked as a lab assistant at the Chicago Met Lab and witnessed the Chicago Pile-1 going critical for the first time. In this interview, Petry discusses his experience working at the Met Lab, and working under Enrico Fermi. He explains how the crew planed graphite blocks, and worked on the Chicago Pile operations. He reflects back on the twentieth anniversary celebrations of the Chicago Pile-1 and meeting President John F. Kennedy at the White House at the time.

William J. Nicholson's Interview

Cindy Kelly:  I’m Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, and it’s Tuesday, March 13, 2018. I’m in Orland Park, Illinois, and I have with me William Nicholson. I’d first like to ask him to say his full name and spell it.

William Nicholson: Oh, my name is William J., Joseph Nicholson. W-i-l-l-i-a-m, J, Joseph, J-o-s-e-p-h, Nicholson, N-i-c-h-o-l-s-o-n.

Kelly: Perfect. Thank you very much. It’s great to be here in Chicago, and interview you about your illustrious past.

Nicholson: Whoa.

William J. Nicholson

William J. Nicholson grew up in Chicago, with a strong interest in aviation and aeronautics. During the Manhattan Project he worked as an assistant in the Met Lab. He then served in the Army Air Force. In this interview, Nicholson discusses his childhood and school years spent in Chicago. He then explains how he joined the Manhattan Project out of high school. He recalls the secrecy of the work, and describes working with and machining uranium and other metals. Nicholson remembers Edward Creutz, Enrico Fermi, Walter Zinn, and other scientists he worked with.

Otto Hillig

Otto Hillig was a Danish machinist who helped work on various projects in the early days of the Manhattan Project. Nicknamed the “Great Dane” by Enrico Fermi, Hillig proved valuable in multiple capacities while working on Chicago Piles 1 and 2. Hillig served as a carbon dioxide moderator during several experiments on Chicago Pile 2. He had a friendly relationship with both Fermi and Walter Zinn, oftentimes playing jokes on them.

Harris Mayer's Interview

Nathaniel Weisenberg: My name is Nate Weisenberg. I’m here with Harris Mayer in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It’s October 11, 2017. My first question: if you could just say your name for the camera and spell it, please.

Harris Mayer: My name is Harris Mayer, H-a-r-r-i-s M-a-y-e-r.

Weisenberg: Thank you. I know you had a story that you wanted to begin with, so I will let you go ahead.

Harris Mayer

Harris Mayer is an American physicist. A student of both Edward Teller and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, he worked at Columbia University during the Manhattan Project. He moved to Los Alamos in 1947 to work at the Los Alamos laboratory, and his early work contributed to the development of the hydrogen bomb. In this interview, Mayer discusses his close friendships with other scientists and his work on the Operation Greenhouse nuclear tests. He shares stories about Teller, Frederick Reines, and Richard Feynman, and recalls attempting to mediate the conflict between Teller and Hans Bethe.

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