Robert I. (“Bob”) Howes Jr. is an American physicist. He was a young child when his father, Robert Ingersoll Howes, was recruited to work as a scientist on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico. In this interview, Howes shares snapshots of daily life in the Los Alamos community from the perspective of a child. He also describes some of the interaction between the Manhattan Project and local Pueblo communities and recalls the misadventures of the family dog.
Santa Fe, NM
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. This is Santa Fe, New Mexico, Wednesday, October 12, 2016. I have with me Julie Melton. My first question for Julie is to say her name and spell it.
Julie Melton: I’ve been widowed twice, so I’ve had a lot of last names, but my maiden name was Hawkins. My father was at Los Alamos. Now my name is Melton, Julie Melton. Just to make it complicated, I’ve written books on democratization in the developing world, and I used my pen name Fisher for that. So it does get complicated.
Julie Melton is an author and expert on civil society, development, and democratization. She is the daughter of Manhattan Project historian David Hawkins and Frances Hawkins, the founder of the nursery school at Los Alamos. During the Manhattan Project, her family lived in the same four-family as Victor and Ellen Weisskopf, who became some of their closest friends. In this interview, she shares her childhood memories of Los Alamos and anecdotes about prominent Manhattan Project scientists.
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.
Louis Hempelmann: He [J. Robert Oppenheimer] just told me what the situation was. He did not ask me, which is the same thing when he got sick because I was in the radiology department here and I knew something about it. He would call me up, tell me what he had done, and then say “What do you think of it?” By that time, the only thing I could say was, “That was fine.”
Martin Sherwin: Martin Sherwin, I am about to interview Dr. Hempelmann at Strong Memorial Hospital.
You know, simply from all of the Los Alamos records, but who told me you were at Strong? That was, I think, Dorothy McKibbin.
Louis Hempelmann: Oh yeah.
Sherwin: No, she confirmed it. She said you were coming out to Santa Fe.
Cindy Kelly: My name is Cindy Kelly with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. It is January 8, 2016, and I am in New York City with Peter Lax. My first question for him is to say his name and spell it.
Peter Lax: Peter Lax, spelled L-A-X.
Kelly: Great, thank you. So I would love to have you talk, just a little bit anyway, about your childhood and your parents.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, Peter Lax fled Nazi persecution and came to America with his family at the age of 15. Drafted into the Army when he was 18, he joined other émigré scientists and mathematicians in Los Alamos to work on the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Lax discusses his work as a member of the Manhattan Project’s Special Engineer Detachment and his mathematical contributions to the challenges of neutron transport, fluid dynamics, and shockwaves.
Cindy Kelly: I am Cindy Kelly. It is October 14, 2015. We’re in in Los Alamos, New Mexico and my first question for the gentleman with me is to tell me your name and spell it.
Bill Hudgins: William G. Hudgins. W-I-L-L-I-A-M. G stands for Gordon. Hudgins. H-U-D-G-I-N-S.
Kelly: First, could you start by telling us when you were born and where, and something about your childhood?
William G. (“Bill”) Hudgins spent most of his childhood years in New Mexico. He first heard about a secret wartime laboratory at Los Alamos in 1943, when he was a student at the University of New Mexico. Hudgins joined the Manhattan Project after writing a letter to Dorothy McKibbin. After briefly being called away for Army training, he returned to Los Alamos as a member of the Special Engineer Detachment.