William Ginell is a physical chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project. In this interview he describes how he became interested in chemistry and his experiences working at Columbia University and Oak Ridge, TN on the gaseous diffusion process. He reflects on the Army, living conditions, and the intense secrecy and security during the project. He also discusses his life after the war, especially his work at Brookhaven, Atomics International, and Douglas Aircraft.
Cindy Kelly: Okay. I am Cindy Kelly. I’m here in Albuquerque. It is Wednesday, October 12.
Hal Behl: Okay. I’m Harold Behl. B as in boy, e-h-l. Known as Hal.
Kelly: Okay. I just want to have you tell us when and where you were born and a little about your childhood.
Cindy Kelly: It is Sunday, May 15, 2016, and we’re in Houston, Texas. I want to start by asking you to tell me your name and then spell it.
Dorothy Ritter: My name is Dorothy Oley Ritter. D-O-R-O-T-H-Y O-L-E-Y R-I-T-T-E-R.
Kelly: All right. Dorothy, why don’t we begin by having you tell us something about your family, when you were born, your childhood?
Ed Wood: January 21, 1954 will go down as a significant day in human history. A milestone in man’s scientific progress. For on that day, at Groton, Connecticut, was launched the first nuclear-powered submarine, the Nautilus, powered by the world’s first atomic engine designed to do useful work. With this achievement, man at last has seen the dawn of the age of atomic power.
Donald Ross: My name is Donald Ross, and I am about to begin my eightieth year on this planet. I was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and I left there with my parents at an early age. We moved to the southern tip of Texas, and had a little farm not too far from Edinburg, Texas, where I grew up.
Gerhart Friedlander: My name is Gerhart Friedlander.
Interviewer: What was your role in the Manhattan Project?
Friedlander: I got into the Manhattan Project very early; in fact, before there was an official Manhattan Project. I was a graduate student at Berkeley at the University of California. My thesis advisor was Glenn Seaborg, who later on got a Nobel Prize and became chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, but at that time he was just a new instructor and I was his first graduate student.
Stephane Groueff: Mr. Hobbs, part three.
J.C. Hobbs: The discussion in connection with piping and all of these fancy bends. Badger Company in Boston, I think, had the contract for the copper expansion joints.
Groueff: Between pipes?
General Kenneth Nichols: —found we did not have the authority to satisfy DuPont.
Stephane Groueff: But why did DuPont challenge your authority?
Nichols: Because they had trouble, in World War I, being called munitions makers and investigated after World War I, so they are more conservative than most companies. And they wanted to have in their files copies of our authorities. And what we had, which I have shown you, and that is satisfactory to them.
Groueff: I see.
Stephane Groueff: [Enrico] Fermi had the characteristics of a real genius.
Colonel Franklin Matthias: Almost every time you would get in contact with him, something would come up that was impressive. Physically, he was a small man, unimpressive person, but he grew real large when he started talking about things he knew.
Groueff: Was he a friendly person?
Matthias: Yes, warm; very warm, very friendly, a real nice person.
Isabella Karle: Isabella Karle. I-S-A-B-E-L-L-A K-A-R-L-E
Cindy Kelly: Terrific. Could you tell us how you happened to become part of the Manhattan Project?