The Manhattan Project

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

Richard Yalman

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Richard Yalman was a member of the Special Engineer Detachment and worked on polonium separation at the top-secret laboratories in Dayton, Ohio during the Manhattan Project.

Yalman grew up in Columbus, Ohio and became interested in chemistry after spending several summers hanging around the chemistry department at the nearby Ohio State University as a teenager. At the age of seventeen, Yalman received a scholarship to study chemistry at Harvard University and by twenty he was already into a Master's program.

In 1943, Yalman was recruited by W. Conrad Fernelius, chairman of Ohio State University's chemistry department and a former mentor, to work on a top-secret project in chemistry Ohio. After basic training at Camp Claibborne, Lousiana, Yalman joined the Special Engineer Detachment and was reassigned to Dayton in May 1944. There, he worked to develop a process to isolate polonium from radium residues shipped down from Canada.

In 1945, Yalman moved to Monsanto's Unit Four building, a playhouse acquired by the U.S. Army and converted into a factory for polonium separation. There he worked on the final purfication of polonium and electroplating of "pits," tiny round objects that were coated with a layer of polonium.

After the war, Yalman joined the Atomic Energy Commission at Mound Laboratory in Miamisburg, Ohio. After only two years, he decided to take a professorship at Antioch College, where he remained for the next thirty-three years.