The Manhattan Project

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & HistoryNational Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Bill Lanouette edited

William Lanouette's Interview

William Lanouette is the author of "Genius in the Shadows: A Biography of Leo Szilard, the Man Behind the Bomb." Lanouette highlights Szilard’s contributions to the Manhattan Project, including his theoretical discovery of chain reaction and critical mass, along with his efforts to curb the use of nuclear weapons after Germany surrendered. He provides an overview of Szilard’s life and his scientific contributions in many fields. Lanouette explains that Szilard’s legacy is not well known due to the vast scope of his work and because his brilliance put him too far ahead of his time.

Mary Lou Curtis's Interview

Mary Lou Curtis's Interview

Mary Lou Curtis joined the Manhattan Project in 1943 and worked at the top-secret polonium production laboratory in Dayton, Ohio. Curtis developed new methods for counting and measuring polonium, which had only recently been discovered. In fact, it was Curtis who measured the polonium that went into the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. She also discusses the difficulties of being one of the few women scientists to work at the laboratory.

General Leslie Groves's Interview - Part 2

In this interview, General Groves talks about his upbringing, his extended family and genealogy, and life with his siblings and parents. He discusses his early childhood, including living at Vancouver Barracks, and his father's time in the Army. He explains his family's influence on his life and career.

General Leslie Groves's Interview - Part 1

In this interview, General Groves discusses the start of the Manhattan Project. He remembers the troubles he had working with Leo Szilard and Eugene Wigner and the importance of redundancy in designing the bomb and plants like the T-Plant. He recounts how the Project came about in the first place, and the early discussions about how to proceed with uranium enrichment, plutonium production, and bomb development.

Edward Teller's Interview

Edward Teller, considered the father of the hydrogen bomb, was a key figure in the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Teller goes into detail about his work on the implosion principle for the plutonium bomb and his work with John von Neumann. He recalls getting Einstein on board with the project in order to gain FDR’s approval. He talks about whether the bomb should have been first used in a demonstration for the Japan and whether he has any regrets.

James Chapman's Interview

James R. Chapman worked on the Manhattan Project for Stone and Webster, which helped build the Y-12 Electromagnetic Separation Plant. He talks about his work at Oak Ridge, and especially the time pressure that the project faced and the speed with which he and his fellow engineers worked. He also discusses the day-to-day lives of scientists working at Oak Ridge.

Mound Panel Discussion

Mound Laboratory Panel Discussion

In this panel discussion, former Mound Laboratory employees discuss their experience working for Monsanto on the highly classified initiator program for nuclear weapons.

William Lowe's Interview

William Lowe's Interview

William Lowe was studying chemical and metallurgical engineering when World War II began. A member of the Special Engineering Detachment, he arrived in Los Alamos and began assisting chemist Arthur Wahl. Lowe recalls working with Wahl on the process for purifying the plutonium for the Gadget and the bombs, and talks about the safety procedures they used to minimize risk of radiation exposure. Lowe later worked on building new reactors, laboratories, and other support facilities at Hanford. He worked in the nuclear power industry for many years and shares his experience of being in the control room during the Three Mile Island incident.

Russell Jim's Interview

Russell Jim's Interview

Russell Jim is a member of the Yakama Nation near the Hanford site and serves as the head of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation’s Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Program. Jim discusses the impact of the Manhattan Project on the Yakama Nation people and the environmental impact of the radioisotopes that were released into the areas surrounding the B Reactor and the Columbia River. Jim explains the history and importance of the land and natural resources to the Yakama people. He expresses concern for the health of future generations and advocates the need for a cooperative effort between the United States government and the Yakama Nation to study the impact of radiation and nuclear waste on the environment.

K. W. Greager's Interview

K. W. Greager's Interview

Wally Greager began working at Hanford in late 1951 after graduating from college. He talks about the different projects he worked on at Hanford, and describes the process of irradiating the fuel in the tubes in the B Reactor.