[Thanks to Ronald K. Smeltzer for donating the record "To Fermi with Love" to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.]
University Involvement in the Manhattan Project
Stephane Groueff: Now it is recording Dr. Langsdorf. If you can tell me in a few words how you got connected with the project and where you came from.
Alexander Langsdorf: Oh, in the first place, as soon as I got my PhD at MIT, I went out to Berkeley as a national research fellow and started to work in Ernest Lawrence’s lab doing nuclear physics, which was a brand new field then, just opening up in 1938.
Cindy Kelly: I'm Cindy Kelly. This is Wednesday, June 24th, 2015, and I'm in Cambridge Massachusetts with Peter Gailson. My first question for you is to tell me your name and spell it.
Peter Galison: My name is Peter Gailson, G-A-L-I-S-O-N. I'm a professor here at Harvard, Physics, a history of science.
Groueff: General Nichols, Part 2.
Nichols: But Dobie [Percival Keith] came back immediately, or shortly thereafter, with the suggestion we build more gaseous diffusion base plants, and that was why we built the K-27 plant.
Groueff: A base?
Kai Bird: Let us begin at the beginning and I think the viewers of this will want to know first about your own background. What year were you born?
Bob Carter: I was born in 1920 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Bird: On what day?
Carter: February 3, 1920.
Bird: Okay, 1920, what was sort of before modern physics, quantum physics was invented as such.
Stephane Groueff: One thing I don’t understand, and it’s a very ignorant question, but what was actually the difference between [Enrico] Fermi’s experiment in ’34 and [Otto] Hahn’s? Because, why do we say that Hahn was the first one, while Fermi also bombarded uranium?
Lew Kowarski: I don’t it’s true to say that Hahn was the first one.
Groueff: It’s not true.
Kowarski: I think it’s one of those simplifications—there are people who find them all right. I don’t.
Alfred Nier: By the summer of 1943, the question came up, what I should do next? And I had a chance to – [J. Robert] Oppenheimer had gotten a hold of me and suggested I might come out to Los Alamos.
Stephane Groueff: And you knew him?
Robert Serber: Ernest [Lawrence] got overexcited about the Russian bomb. I imagine that [Edward] Teller called him and got him worked up. I warned him about Edward’s Super, that it wasn't a practical idea at the moment. I told him if he wanted to really find out he should talk to [Hans] Bethe, but he never did. He was all gung ho for the Super and he immediately went with more or less the action before he thought of what he could do, and the thing to do was to build these reactors to make tritium.
Wendy Steinle: Good morning, Ralph. I’m Wendy Steinle, as you know, and I am really pleased to be your friend and to have the opportunity to interview you this morning. Just for the record, will you start by stating and spelling your name, and then tell us the date?
Ralph Gates: Well, thanks, Wendy. My name is Ralph Gates, but I am—it’s Ralph Pillsbury Gates and I am a junior. It’s R-a-l-p-h, Pillsbury is P-i-l-l-s-b-u-r-y, and Gates is G-a-t-e-s.
Steinle: What is today’s date?
Ralph Gates is a chemical and electrical engineer who worked on the Manhattan Project as a part of the Special Engineer Detachment. His primary job was casting shape charges for the plutonium bombs.