Los Alamos National Laboratory Historian Alan B. Carr speaks Monday evening at his lecture, Manhattan: The View from Los Alamos of History’s Most Secret Project”, sponsored by the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee and the Los Alamos Historical Society. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thom Mason, far left, and JROMC member Damon Giovanielli chat with JRMOC member emeritus J. Arthur Freed prior to Monday night’s lecture at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
JROMC member Anna Llobet Megias was the emcee for Monday’s lecture by Alan Carr at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
Los Alamos County Councilor and Vice Chair of the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee David Izraelevitz and committee member Becky Shankland at Monday evening at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
LANL Director Thom Mason introduces LANL Historian Alan B. Carr Monday evening. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Thom Mason, while introducing LANL Historian Alan B. Carr as the speaker at the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee lecture Monday night, said some people might be surprised that a Lab that’s really a science and engineering and national security Lab would have an historian.
“In fact, not only do we have historians, we have archivists, archaeologists and the reason for that is not just because we’re very proud of our history, which we are, but also because understanding that history is really important to our present and our future as a Laboratory, particularly in a world where we have to be stewards of a stockpile without testing, knowing what was done and why it was done is a critical part of our current missions,” Mason said.
He commented that Carr is exemplary both in terms of communicating about the Lab’s history, but also helping to preserve it.
During his talk entitled “Manhattan: The View from Los Alamos of History’s Most Secret Project”, Carr described at length the context of the Manhattan Project – what was going on in the world at the time. He felt some of the things he talked about might be kind of useful in terms of some of the things going on in the world today. He began in 1939 when Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin secretly divided Poland and announced a non-agression pact, which was quite a shock to the rest of the world. He continued from there through the end of World War II.
Along the way, with his unique style, Carr described the discovery of fission, covering the discovery of barium in Germany in late 1938 by chemists Fritz Strassmann and Otto Hahn by bombarding uranium with neutrons. He described in layman’s terms how the splitting of an atom had the potential to make an atomic bomb. He went on to discuss Leo Sziland and Alfred Einstein’s warning to President Roosevelt of fission’s potential and the 1939 establishment of the Uranium Advisory Committee which was later absorbed by the National Defense Research Committee.
Carr also spoke of the MAUD Report developed by Britain and the shift from discussion of nuclear reactors to nuclear bombs. He discussed “Thin Man”, “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” and what led up to the bombs being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Carr never lost his audience for a moment and continued to keep them alert and ready to hear more until finally his pleas for “five more minutes” fell on deaf ears and he had to finish up.
For those who missed the talk, it was filmed by PAC-8 and will be available for viewing on the jromc.org website.
Los Alamos Historical Society Board President Cheri Trottier and her husband Andre at Monday evenings lecture at Duane Smith Auditorium. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com