The Manhattan Project

University of California-Berkeley

Roger Hildebrand's Interview

Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly, and it is November 16, 2016. I’m in Chicago, Illinois with Roger Hildebrand. My first question for him is tell me your name and spell it, please.

Roger Hildebrand: My name is Roger Hildebrand, R-o-g-e-r H-i-l-d-e-b-r-a-n-d.

Kelly: Tell us what is your birthday and where were you born?

Roger Hildebrand

Roger Hildebrand is an American physicist and the S.K. Allison Distinguished Service Professor, Emeritus, at the University of Chicago. His involvement with the Manhattan Project began with a tap on the shoulder by Ernest Lawrence, who convinced Hildebrand to shift from being a chemist to a physicist. He worked with cyclotrons and mass spectrometers at Berkeley before transferring to the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge. In this interview, Hildebrand shares his memories of Lawrence, Enrico Fermi, Samuel Allison, and other Manhattan Project scientists.

Louis Hempelmann's Interview - Part 4

Louis Hempelmann:  I do not think the people who came later were ever as close as the people who were there at the beginning.

Martin Sherwin: Did most of the people who came later, were they junior people? That is, younger? [Enrico] Fermi came later.

Hempelmann: [George] Kistiakowsky came later.

Sherwin: He did? When you say “earlier” and “later,” what dates are you talking about?

Louis Hempelmann's Interview - Part 3

Martin Sherwin: What was the set-up at Los Alamos, in terms of your relationship to the director [J. Robert Oppenheimer] and how you operated?

Louis Hempelmann:  I was working directly under him. I started out with my wife as a half-time secretary, and the technician I brought with me from St. Louis, and Kitty worked for me.

Sherwin: What did Kitty do for you?

Hempelmann: Did blood counts.

Sherwin: Was she a good technician?

Elsie McMillan

Elsie McMillan was the wife of Nobel Prize winner Edwin McMillan and sister-in-law of another Nobel Prize winner, Ernest Lawrence. She came to Los Alamos in 1943 with Edwin and their baby Ann. In her speech, she take the audience on an imaginary tour of Los Alamos, complete with detailed descriptions of various buildings and their home, today known as the Hans Bethe House. Her speech characterizes what civilian life was like at Los Alamos for the wives of many scientists, including the challenges of shopping with ration cards and dealing with the tight security.

Edwin McMillan's Lecture

Edwin McMillan: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start with two remarks. First, this is going to be a personal story, so if I use the first person singular, this is not pure egotism, it is simply the fact that that’s the part that I know best. Second remark is, the difficulty of establishing facts at such a late date, even of important things. During the Manhattan Project, of course, there was security impressed upon everyone, so very few people kept any notes.

Edwin McMillan

Edwin and Elsie McMillan were among the first people to arrive at Los Alamos. Edwin, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, was involved in the initial selection of Los Alamos. In this lecture, Edwin describes visiting Jemez Springs and Los Alamos when he, Oppenheimer, and General Groves were deciding on the site for the weapons laboratory. McMillan also discusses his involvement in the implosion research, the gun program, and recruiting scientists including Richard Feynman to the project. 

Harold Cherniss's Interview - Part 1

Harold Cherniss: Well, you see, I was married on January 1, 1929, in White Plains. When we went back to Berkeley, it was immediately after that that I met  [J. Robert] Oppenheimer. This is the time in which he had come to Berkeley the autumn before, just about this time. Taught one term in Berkeley, one term at Caltech. That’s when I first met him, and I met him because my wife had known him when they were children.

Martin Sherwin: Your wife’s maiden name?


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