Herbert York PassesDr. Herbert York, the first director of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, died on May 19, 2009 of leukemia. In addition, Dr. York served as Chancellor of the University of California, San Diego, from 1961 to 1964, and again from 1970 to 1972.
Additionally, York has written some 75 articles and several books, including Race to Oblivion: A Participant's View of the Arms Race. His awards include the E.O. Lawrence Prize (1964), a Guggenheim Fellowship (1972-73), and the American Physical Society's Leo Szilard Award for Physics in the Public Interest (1994). In 2000, President Clinton named him a recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award for his efforts and contributions in nuclear deterrence and arms-control agreements.
I had the pleasure of hearing speak a few years ago at UCSD on Physicists, the Bomb and the Development of U.S. Science Policy. That event can be viewed here.
The Manhattan Project and its Cold War LegacyThe Manhattan Project and its Cold War Legacy
February 20, 2008 (4:00 - 6:00pm)
5th Floor Conference Room
Woodrow Wilson Center
Visit www.cwihp.org for more information and to RSVP The Wilson Center's
Cold War International History Project will sponsor an in-depth discussion of the Manhattan Project and its Cold War legacy. This session will feature William Lanouette and James Hershberg as well as veteran Robert Furman, who directed the first atomic intelligence unit. The panel will be moderated by Cynthia C. Kelly, editor of The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic Bomb in the Words of its Creators, Eyewitnesses, and Historians (Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007).
Wish I lived in the DC area.
Why Did They Called It the Manhattan Project?The New York Times has a wonderful article on that question. In The Manhattan Project (Black Dog & Leventhal), published last month, Dr. Norris writes about the Manhattan Project's Manhattan locations. He says the borough had at least 10 sites, all but one still standing. They include warehouses that held uranium, laboratories that split the atom, and the project's first headquarters - a skyscraper hidden in plain sight right across from City Hall.
The article has a video interview with Stan, who I had a chance to meet a few years back. In addition, they also have nice interactive map of the various sites in NYC.
New section on websiteWe just uploaded a new page on "The British Mission". The text was originally published in LOS ALAMOS SCIENCE Winter/Spring 1983. For those who don't know what the British Mission was; it wasa team of British scientists led by Sir James Chadwick, and included Rudolph Peierls, M.L.E. Oliphant, Otto Frisch, James Tuck, Klaus Fuchs, and 13 others, who assisted the Manhattan Project in many critical areas as a part of the Quebec Agreement in August 1942. These scientists served diligently at Los Alamos throughout the war, and some even remained after its conclusion.
Physicists, the Bomb and the Development of U.S. Science PolicyLast Thursday, the University of California, San Diego, Division of Physical Science, hosted a event entitled "Physicists, the Bomb and the Development of U.S. Science Policy". It was a discussion with UCSD professors Herbert York and Marvin Goldberger. I arrived a bit early to get a good seat as you never know what San Diego traffic can be like. They were just finishing testing the microphones and a few other pre-recording checks. Once the production folks were finished, I had moment to talk with Dr. York. Being the collector that I am, I did bring along copy of The Advisors, which he graciously signed. We chatted a bit about his other book, Making Weapons, Talking Peace, which I told him was back on the bookshelf. I wish I had more time to into depth on so many topics; working with E.O. Lawrence, arms control negotiations, running a weapons lab.
Soon the theater began to fill up. The event was moderated by Mark Theimens, Dean of the Division of Physical Sciences. The evening started with Dr. Goldberger reflecting on his time at the University of Chicago. He worked as an S.E.D. (Special Engineering Detachment), assisting in the development of designing the production reactors that were being built at Site W. After the war, he continued his education with Enrico Fermi serving as his advisor. He warmly remembered Dr. Fermi. I wished we could have heard more about his interactions with Fermi.
Dr. York also commented on time spent with Fermi, and it seemed he loved to ask rhetorical questions. He then spoke about one of the other giants of the time, Ernest Lawrence. He painted a picture of Lawrence as an optimist, and more of an incredible inventor rather than a physicist. He spoke of his graduate days, working in the evenings on the calutron at Berkeley, when Lawrence would stop by and ask how it was going. The best analogy I could give would be if you were a simple programmer at Apple and Steve Jobs would stop by your office to see how things were progressing. Later he commented on how he had about 10 hours a week on one of the most expensive experimental machines in the world at the time, and how today it take massive groups just to perform similar experiments.
The discussion then turned to Oppenheimer. Dr. York had him as a teacher, and remembered his distinctive cough, the ever present smoking, and the pork pie hat. He knew Oppy's brother Frank quite well. He spoke of the great leaps that Oppy would make during lecturing. You would start with something simple like, "1 - 1 = 0";, then the next line would be on alpha decay.
Dr. Goldberger also knew Oppy, mostly while serving as director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. He recalled hosting a New Year's Eve party at a firehouse near campus, when Oppy, Kitty, Niels Bohr and his wife, Margrethe, came in and the whole party turned toward them. He also added his comments about his dislike of Kitty.
He also spoke of the events of 1954, the security hearings of Oppenheimer. He supported Oppenheimer, as most did, but felt he made some poor choices along the way.
Dr. York provided some insight from his role as the first director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. There he worked both with Lawrence and Edward Teller, both of whom had a dislike for Oppenheimer. He decided to try to stay out of the fray, and focus on getting the new lab up and running, but mostly sided with Oppenheimer. He saw the fallout of the hearings, many scientists refused to come to the lab, even for a visit because of Teller's testimony (and to some degree Teller's bashing of Los Alamos as well). He commented that Teller continued to be bitter about his treatment after the hearings and this bitterness continued to grow over time.
The discussion then turned toward their roles in science policy. One remembered Luis Alverez commenting after a visit to Washington, D.C. "They wanted me to bring it [money] home in a wheelbarrow."- They talked about the state of science today, how it takes multiple universities working together in order to get funding. Dr. York commented on when this change occurred. He said, when the "War Time" leaders (those who lived by the "just get it done" attitude), retired, then leadership by committee began to take hold.
Dr. Goldberger did speak briefly about forming Jason, a group of academic scientists from top universities who get together for a few weeks every summer to work on government projects. Dr. York also spoke briefly about his involvement.
The evening quickly drew to a close, with Dr. Goldberger commenting on the down turn of the role of science in policy making. Dr. York spoke of the need for science to take the lead on three main issues; Climate Change, Energy, and Proliferation.
The event was video taped and should be available at http://www.ucsd.tv/ at some later date.