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.
[Thanks to David Schiferl and Willie Atencio for recording this interview and providing a copy to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.]
Willie Atencio: Mr. Zamora, when was the first time you heard about Los Alamos? You were a very young boy when Los Alamos started.
Robert Bacher: I presented this [the discovery of the neutron] in the seminar and there were a good many questions. Some people were skeptical. I convinced Ed Condon almost immediately. In fact, within the week we had written a note together on the spin of the neutron because you could work it out. This part of it fit into the things of nuclear spins, hyperfine structure, nuclear moments, and so on. A good many other people came around to it. I think more than half the people were convinced at that time.
Martin Sherwin: This is Martin Sherwin. Today is March 29, 1983. I am going to interview Professor Robert F. Bacher – B-a-c-h-e-r – in his office on the Caltech campus in Pasadena.
Charles Critchfield: Is that your book, by the way?
Richard Rhodes: Yes.
Critchfield: Making of the Atomic Bomb?
Critchfield: I’ve always heard it, Making of the Bomb. No, I didn’t know it was your book. Rubby Sherr sent me that, and he also sent me excerpts from two or three other books on the bomb. Rubby was my main man in my group for making the Initiator.
Charles Critchfield was a mathematical physicist assigned to work on the development of gun-type fission weapons, and eventually implosion-type weapons, at Los Alamos. He returned to Los Alamos in 1952 to work on the development of the hydrogen bomb.