Dr. Martin Mandelberg is an engineer who is writing a biography on his doctoral advisor, Manhattan Project mathematician Richard Hamming. In this interview, Mandelberg discusses his work at General Dynamics, the Naval Underwater Sound Lab, SAIC, the Defense Department, and other jobs. He provides an overview of Hamming’s life and career, highlighting Hamming’s many important contributions to computing at Los Alamos and Bell Labs, and Hamming’s passion for solving big problems. Mandelberg also praises Hamming’s mentorship of his graduate students.
Robert S. Norris: By the late 30s, physicists, in Europe primarily, but some in America too, were making great discoveries about the atom. The key date here was January 1939, when European scientists had discovered fission. News of that was brought to the United States by Niels Bohr. Actually, it was brought to Washington, DC, at a conference at George Washington University.
Intro to Recording:
Narrator: Today is the 15th of May, 2012. This recording is of Victor Kumin, and it is being made at his home in Warner, New Hampshire.
Early Years at Harvard and Woods Hole:
Victor Kumin was a young scientist when he was drafted to the U.S. Army in 1944. In September of that year, he was transferred to Los Alamos. Here he was part of the Special Engineer Detachment (SED).
Nate Weisenberg: My name is Nate Weisenberg. It is Tuesday, October 17, 2017. I’m here in Albuquerque, New Mexico with D. Ellett. My first question for you is if you could please say your name and spell it.
D.M. Ellett: It’s D, initial only, M, Ellett, E-l-l-e-t-t.
Weisenberg: Tell us a little bit about your childhood and early life. When and where were you born?
D. M. Ellett is a mechanical engineer who joined the Manhattan Project after the end of World War II. He was a member of Z Division, which was assigned to Sandia Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1945.
Cindy Kelly: I am Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation. It is December 7, 2017, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I am with Jim Eckles. I would like to start by asking him to say his full name and spelling it.
Jim Eckles: Jim Eckles, E-C-K-L-E-S.
Kelly: Terrific. Jim, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about your background and how you became so familiar with the Trinity site?
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—
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, and it is October 12, 2017. I’m in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I have with me John Ruminer. I’d like him to say his name and spell it.
John Ruminer: You got it just right. It’s John Ruminer – R-U-M-I-N-E-R.
Kelly: Terrific. John, why don’t you talk about where we are in Santa Fe, and a little bit about the history of this place?
Nate Weisenberg: My name is Nate Weisenberg, and I’m here with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. It is Thursday, October 12, 2017, and I am here with Mr. Al Zeltmann at his home in Los Alamos. My first question for you is if you could please say your name and spell it.