Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics

By Edward Teller; Judith L. Shoolery | Go to book overview

22
THE REACTOR
SAFEGUARD COMMITTEE
1947-1949

IN LATE 1946, President Truman announced his appointees to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). The passage of the McMahon Bill had established that the board overseeing the development of the military and peacetime applications would be made up of civilians. David Lilienthal, who had worked closely with Oppie to draft the Baruch plan, was nominated as chairman. The nominee-commissioners were Admiral Lewis Strauss, a financier and philanthropist who had served in the navy during World War II; Sumner Pike, another financier who had served in the Office of Price Administration during the war; William Waymack, a former newspaper editor and deputy Federal Reserve Bank chairman; and Robert Bacher, a physicist who had replaced Ed Condon as Oppenheimer's second-in-command at Los Alamos. 1

Although I was confident that each of the appointees was a bright man, it seemed to me that having only one physicist on the commission might not be the best arrangement. Bacher, like Condon, appeared to hold the political views of the majority of physicists at Los Alamos, but he seemed a much less independent and imaginative thinker than Condon. That worried me because the AEC had huge responsibilities in regard to the emerging science and its applications. The AEC was responsible for building up a nuclear arsenal, developing new weapons, and reorganizing and directing the laboratories—in— cluding those at Los Alamos and Oak Ridge and the facilities at Hanford—for

____________________
1
Bacher had been Compton's assistant in the early 1930s, and then worked as Vannevar Bush's aide until coming to Los Alamos.

-263-

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