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.
Chicago Met Lab
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 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.
August "Gus" Knuth was a millwright and carpenter who helped construct Chicago Pile-1. He was present on December 2, 1942 when the pile went critical in the first self-sustaining chain reaction in history.
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. This is Atomic Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. and it is Wednesday, November 15, 2017. I have with me Suzanne Langsdorf. My first question is for her to tell us her full name and spell it.
Suzanne Langsdorf: My name is Suzanne Martyl Langsdorf. That is spelled S-U-Z-A-N-N-E, Martyl is M-A-R-T-Y-L, and Langsdorf is L-A-N-G-S-D-O-R-F.
Kelly: Very good.
Langsdorf: I have to spell it a lot in real life.
Suzanne Martyl Langsdorf is the daughter of Alexander Langsdorf, a Manhattan Project physicist and one of the founders of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Martyl Langsdorf, an artist who designed the iconic Doomsday Clock. In this interview, Suzanne describes her parents’ personalities and interests, their family life together, and the homes they lived in during her childhood. She gives a closer look at the lives of her parents including how they met, their marriage, and their respective careers.
Richard Garwin: I’m Richard Garwin. Everybody calls me Dick. G-a-r-w-i-n, born April 19, 1928.
Cindy Kelly: Great. So, we’re going to talk first about what you did as a student, and how you got to know Enrico Fermi and got involved in the business of nuclear weapons. We’ll just start with describing your work in the lab at the University of Chicago, and what it was like to work with Enrico Fermi. Or, if you’d like to go back, prelude that with where you’re from and how you got interested in—
Richard "Dick" Garwin is an American physicist. He was born in 1928 in Cleveland, Ohio. Garwin has had a long scientific career, focused on invention, conducting research, and advising policymakers and U.S. Presidents. After earning a degree in Physics from Case Western University, Garwin went on to earn his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. There, he met and studied under Enrico Fermi. Fermi described Garwin as a “true genius.” In 1949, after earning his Ph.D., he taught in the Physics Department at UChicago and worked as a consultant at the Los Alamos laboratory.
Cindy Kelly: Okay. I’m Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, and it is Thursday, April 6, 2017, in Washington, D.C. I have with me Abe Krash. First thing I want to do is ask him to say and then spell his full name.
Abe Krash: Abe Krash, A-b-e K-r-a-s-h.
Kelly: Thank you. You’ve had some very interesting experiences in your life.