Skip to comments.Manhattan Project Physicist York Dies
Posted on 05/23/2009 1:26:08 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Herbert York, a leading physicist in the development of the atomic bomb during World War II who later became an arms-control advocate and founding chancellor of the University of California, San Diego, USA, passed away. He was 87.
York died on Tuesday at Thornton Hospital in San Diego, the university announced, after a long illness. His death was attributed to acute myelogenous leukemia. Herb York made this campus and this world a better place, UC San Diego chancellor Marye Anne Fox said in a statement. Beginning with his work on the Manhattan Project, York held a series of high-level scientific, academic and governmental posts over six decades and served as an adviser to six presidents on matters of science research and arms control. He wrote and lectured extensively about the threat of nuclear war. There is no such thing as a good nuclear weapons system, York said in a 1983 interview with the Los Angeles Times. There is no way to achieve, in the sound sense, national security through nuclear weapons. In 1958, US President Dwight D Eisenhower appointed York as the first director of Defence Research and Engineering overseeing missile and space research. In 1961, UC president Clark Kerr persuaded him to become the founding chancellor of UC San Diego. But as the Cold War intensified and the threat of a nuclear exchange loomed, York returned repeatedly to the pursuit he had begun after World War II: stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.
York served as a delegate to the anti-satellite arms control talks in 1978 and then as chief negotiator in the US-Soviet negotiations for a ban on nuclear weapons testing.
York was known as a raconteur who loved telling jokes, including to the stone-faced negotiators for the Soviet Union during the long sessions in Geneva. Herbert Frank York was born in Rochester, New York, on November 24, 1921. The son of a railroad baggage handler, York was a brilliant student of physics at the University of Rochester, where he received bachelors and masters degrees in 1943.
He joined the University of California Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley and was soon recruited to join the Manhattan Project. To York, like many other scientists, the project was the most intellectually challenging work imaginable, with a noble purpose. Not only did we complete the project, but we ended the war, York said. He served as UC San Diego chancellor from 1961-1964 and from 1970-1972. He preferred teaching and, unlike many senior academics, retained a fondness for working with undergraduate students.
The failure of the Geneva negotiations remained a profound disappointment. The world situation just wouldnt support it, he said.
In his 1970 book, The Race to Oblivion, York worried that nuclear technology seemed to have a momentum that made confrontation between the superpowers inevitable. We seem to be heading for a state of affairs, he wrote, in which the determination of whether or not Doomsday has arrived will be made either by an automatic device ... or by a preprogrammed President who, whether he knows it or not, will be carrying out orders written years before by some operations analyst.
York is survived by his wife of 61 years, Sybil; three children and four grandchildren.
So he rightfully never apologized for working on the Manhattan Project but he did come to act as if nuclear bang-bangs had an evil life of their own.
A good enough epitaph for any man.
Born 24 Nov 1921 American nuclear physicist whose scientific research in support of national defense began in 1943 when he began work at Oak Ridge, Tenn., on the electromagnetic separation of Uranium 235 as part of the Manhattan Project during WW II. In 1952, he became the first director of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. He left in Mar 1958 to join the Department of Defense as chief scientist of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, and shortly became the Department of Defense's director of research and engineering (Dec 1958). He returned to the University of California in 1961 as chancellor and professor of physics. He was chief negotiator for the comprehensive test ban during the Carter administration.«
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York was hardly a ‘leading scientist’ at the Manhattan Project, since he only had just gotten his MS when he was there.
I loved him in “The Last Remake of Beau Geste” though.
I preferred him in ‘Cabaret’, though not the way his part was rewritten from the stage musical.
...As a junior physicist, he was not central to the project. The greater part of his work was administering the computation group of human computers in the Theoretical division (one of his students there, John G. Kemeny, would later go on to co-write the computer language BASIC). Later, with Nicholas Metropolis, he assisted in establishing the system for using IBM punch cards for computation. Feynman succeeded in solving one of the equations for the project that were posted on the blackboards. However, they did not “do the physics right” and Feynman’s solution was not used in the project. Feynman’s other work at Los Alamos included calculating neutron equations for the Los Alamos “Water Boiler”, a small nuclear reactor, to measure how close an assembly of fissile material was to criticality. On completing this work he was transferred to the Oak Ridge facility, where he aided engineers in devising safety procedures for material storage so that inadvertent criticality accidents (for example, storing sub-critical amounts of fissile material in proximity on opposite sides of a wall) could be avoided. He also did theoretical work and calculations on the proposed uranium-hydride bomb, which later proved not to be feasible. Feynman was sought out by physicist Niels Bohr for one-on-one discussions. He later discovered the reason: most physicists were too in awe of Bohr to argue with him. Feynman had no such inhibitions, vigorously pointing out anything he considered to be flawed in Bohr’s thinking...
87? That radiation will take years off your life.
“The Italian navigator has landed in the New World and the natives are friendly.”
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