Ralph Lapp was completing his PhD in physics at the University of Chicago when he joined the Manhattan Project. After the war, he worked for the War Department and served as a scientific advisor there before leaving the government to start his own firm. Lapp went on to write several books and advocate for peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In this interview, he discusses how he stumbled upon Enrico Fermi’s team working under Stagg’s Field in December of 1942, and was hired on the spot to work on the development of the atomic bomb.
Richard Rhodes: How did you get involved in the program?
Marshall Rosenbluth: Well, you can probably guess. I’ve already told you that I was a student of [Edward] Teller’s. I was in the Navy during the war and then went back to the University of Chicago where my parents were living, to graduate school, and became a student of Teller’s. I’m not quite sure exactly how. He was a professor in one of my courses.
Marshall Rosenbluth was an American physicist who worked in the theoretical division at Los Alamos from 1950 to 1956. In this interview, Rosenbluth addresses the theoretical issues involved in designing both the atomic and hydrogen bombs. He discusses how the pressure to create a nuclear bomb before the Soviet Union affected work in the laboratory, especially in performing and checking calculations. Rosenbluth also recounts his experiences during the nuclear weapons tests at Los Alamos and Bikini Atoll.
Raemer Schreiber: Yes, there was at least one [bomb core], and people back here worked furiously taking the plutonium as it arrived and converting it into another core. I don’t know the answer to it. I have heard stories another core was on its way out at the time of the surrender.
Richard Rhodes: Groves decided not to ship it. I’ve seen the document.
Raemer E. Schreiber (1910-1998) was an American physicist.
George Cowan: What you’ve learned from the Russians, for example?
Richard Rhodes: The main thing I have learned is that their first bomb was a carbon copy of Fat Man.
Cowan Cowan: Well of course. I knew that in 1949, about the middle of September of ’49 because we analyzed the debris from that and it was clear that it was a carbon copy.
Alexandra Levy: All right, we are here today on July 18, 2014 in New Jersey with Robert Hayes. My first question for you is to please say your name and to spell it.
Robert Hayes: Robert, R-O-B-E-R-T, E, Hayes, H-A-Y-E-S.
Levy: Can you tell me a little bit about when and where you were born and grew up?
Cindy Kelly: Okay, my name is Cindy Kelly and I am in south Denver, Colorado. It's June 25th, 2013. And I'm with Fay Cunningham. But the first thing I'm going to do is ask him to tell us his name and spell it.
Cunningham: Fay Cunningham, F-A-Y, C-U-N-N-I-N-G-H-A-M; it's a good old Scottish name.
Kelly: Hey, the Scots are great. Anyway, tell us something about your background.
Cindy Kelly: I am Cindy Kelly with the Atomic Heritage Foundation and it is June 26, 2013 and we are in Rio Verde, Arizona and my first question is please tell us your name and spell it.
Tom Scolman: I am Thomas Scolman, although officially I am Theodore T. Scolman, S-C-O-L-M-A-N, and I Was born October 27, 1926.
I was in the Army drafted, classified for counter-intelligence work for reasons I will never understand. I got into that, investigative work as an enlisted man and after about a year I was commissioned also in counter-intelligence work. I continued there in the 6th service command in Chicago in that kind of work. One day to my surprise I found myself in the main office of the G-2 part of the service command there. A man from Washington was due there, an officer, for unspecified reasons. It happened to be a day on which there was a large meeting elsewhere and a sub