The Manhattan Project

Los Alamos, NM

Benjamin Bederson

Benjamin Bederson, a New York native, was selected to serve in the Special Engineering Detachment during the Manhattan Project. A physicist, he was first sent to Oak Ridge, and then to Los Alamos, where he worked for Donald Hornig on designing the ignition switches for the implosion bomb. At Los Alamos, he knew Ted Hall and David Greenglass, who were secretly sending atomic bomb secrets to the USSR. Bederson instructed the 509th Composite Group at Wendover and was sent to Tinian to help wire the switches for the bomb.

John Adams's Lecture

Cindy Kelly: The next speaker is John Adams, who is a composer, as you all know, and composed most recently an opera about the Manhattan Project, “Doctor Atomic,” which opened in San Francisco last October [2005]. We are absolutely thrilled to have him here, as an artist who has grappled with the deeper meanings and expressed them most dramatically in music and in theater in this opera. I’d like to invite John to come and get wired up and begin.

[Applause]

John Adams: Thank you very much, thank you.

John Adams

John Adams is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer of contemporary classical music. Known for his operas Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer, as well as for multiple orchestral works, Adams speaks here about Doctor Atomic, his 2005 opera set at Los Alamos in the weeks leading up to the Trinity Test. He describes the creation of the work and why he was initially hesitant to develop an opera around J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project.

Astro Teller

Astro Teller, co-founder of Alphabet subsidiary “X,” is the grandson of Edward Teller, the famous physicist often considered the father of the hydrogen bomb. In this interview, Astro recalls how Edward loved to read him fairy tales and play bridge – though Edward played competitively with Astro’s other grandfather, Nobel Prize-winning economist Gerard Debreu. He discusses Edward’s love of answering big scientific questions, his family life, and time at Los Alamos.

Benjamin Bederson's Interview (2018)

Cindy Kelly: My name is Cindy Kelly from the Atomic Heritage Foundation. It is Thursday, February 1, 2018 in New York City. I have with me Benjamin Bederson. I would like to ask him to say his name and spell it, please.

Ben Bederson: I am Benjamin Bederson. Benjamin, B-E-N-J-A-M-I-N, Bederson, B like Boy, E-D like David, E-R-S-O-N.

Kelly:  Great. Ben, we were just chatting about your background and your parents, who came from Russia. Could you talk about your childhood and your parents?

Harris Mayer's Interview

Nathaniel Weisenberg: My name is Nate Weisenberg. I’m here with Harris Mayer in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It’s October 11, 2017. My first question: if you could just say your name for the camera and spell it, please.

Harris Mayer: My name is Harris Mayer, H-a-r-r-i-s M-a-y-e-r.

Weisenberg: Thank you. I know you had a story that you wanted to begin with, so I will let you go ahead.

Harris Mayer

Harris Mayer is an American physicist. A student of both Edward Teller and Maria Goeppert-Mayer, he worked at Columbia University during the Manhattan Project. He moved to Los Alamos in 1947 to work at the Los Alamos laboratory, and his early work contributed to the development of the hydrogen bomb. In this interview, Mayer discusses his close friendships with other scientists and his work on the Operation Greenhouse nuclear tests. He shares stories about Teller, Frederick Reines, and Richard Feynman, and recalls attempting to mediate the conflict between Teller and Hans Bethe.

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