Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics

By Edward Teller; Judith L. Shoolery | Go to book overview
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17
ON AND
OFF THE MESA
November 1943-January 1945

LOS ALAMOS, IN some ways, resembled an enormous international reunion of the atomic physics community. The science of quantum mechanics was only fourteen years old when the war began. There were so few of us working in the field that for the most part we knew one another, and a sizable portion of our group worked at Los Alamos. In the late fall of 1943, the British contingent, headed by James Chadwick, the man who discovered the neutron, arrived to a warm welcome at Los Alamos.

Even so, Project Y, as Los Alamos was code-named, was perennially shorthanded. By the time Los Alamos was organized, most American scientists were already involved in war work. The several talented British physicists, among them James Tuck and Rudolph Peierls, were particularly appreciated because no one needed to orient these newcomers to the work. The British were firmly convinced, then and afterwards, that they had started the atomic bomb project with their Tube Alloy program. 1 The following summer, another member of the British contingent, Klaus Fuchs, arrived after having spent some months working at Columbia.

The newcomers and their families were soon indistinguishable from the original Los Alamos contingent. James Tuck was self-assured, outgoing and

____________________
1
The British began investigating the possibility of an atomic bomb early and had made slow progress. Given the hardships, dangers, and shortages of wartime, part of their work was transferred to Canada, and at the invitation of the U.S. government, a group of British theoreticians joined the Manhattan Project.

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