Marshall N. Rosenbluth

By Dyson, Freeman | Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, June 2006 | Go to article overview

Marshall N. Rosenbluth


Dyson, Freeman, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society


5 FEBRUARY 1927 * 28 SEPTEMBER 2003

BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIRS

MARSHALL ROSENBLUTH was for forty years one of the leaders of the international community of scientists and engineers trying to develop fusion as a clean and inexhaustible source of energy. In the United States he was the most important fusion theorist. He combined in one person two unusual gifts. He was a master of applied mathematics, with unrivaled ability to analyze the complex patterns of behavior of high-temperature plasmas. He was also an international diplomat, with unrivaled ability to cross barriers of culture and language and build friendships with plasma physicists all over the world. For him, the understanding of plasma physics was not merely an intellectual challenge. The driving force of his life and work was his conviction that the power of hydrogen fusion reactions, the power of the bombs that could destroy cities and civilizations, could also be used in peaceful reactors to bring wealth and prosperity to all mankind.

Rosenbluth was born in Albany in 1927 and was a student of Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago from 1946 to 1949. As a student at Chicago, he published, together with his student contemporaries C. N. Yang and T. D. Lee, a letter in the Physical Review with the title "Interaction of Mesons with Nucleons and Light Particles," presenting evidence for a universal weak interaction operating with equal strength between light and heavy particles. This one-page letter was an important milestone, pointing the way toward the unified theory of weak interactions that was discovered many years later. During his student days, Rosenbluth also published the first fully relativistic calculation of electronproton scattering. He would certainly have become a leading particle physicist if his attention had not been distracted by plasma physics.

After a year as an instructor at Stanford, Rosenbluth was recruited by Edward Teller to work on the crash program to design a hydrogen bomb at Los Alamos. Unlike Teller, he was a good team player and had the combination of qualities-perseverance, technical skill, and meticulous attention to detail-that the hydrogen bomb program required. He arrived at Los Alamos in time to make major contributions to the design of the first hydrogen bomb, which was exploded in the Mike test of 1952. When Stalin died in the spring of 1953, Rosenbluth decided to leave Los Alamos, but he did not leave immediately. He continued to work on the next generation of bombs, and in 1954 he was present in the South Pacific at the Castle Bravo test, which exploded with a yield of 15 megatons. The Castle Bravo bomb showered Rosenbluth's ship, in addition to the ill-fated Japanese fishing-boat Fortunate Dragon, with radioactive fallout. He said later, "There was a huge fireball with these turbulent rolls going in and out. The thing was glowing. It looked to me like a diseased brain up in the sky. It spread until the edge of it looked as if it was almost directly overhead. It was a much more awesome sight than a puny little atomic bomb. It was a pretty sobering and shattering experience." He then decided that he had had enough of bombs and would devote the rest of his life to the development of peaceful fusion.

Before leaving Los Alamos, Rosenbluth worked with his first wife, Arianna, Nick Metropolis, and Edward Teller on new methods for simulating physical processes with the electronic computers that were then coming into operation. They developed the Monte Carlo method, studying the statistical behavior of atoms and molecules by looking at them one at a time, letting the state of each molecule be determined by random throws of dice. The Monte Carlo method was a profound innovation, moving away from the continuous variables and differential equations that had dominated the physical sciences since the time of Newton. Continuous variables were replaced by discrete events, differential equations by simple counting of events with various outcomes. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Marshall N. Rosenbluth
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.