August 31, 1905|
November 18, 2004 (aged 99)|
|Alma mater||University of Michigan|
|Known for||Manhattan Project|
|Institutions||Cornell University, Los Alamos National Laboratory|
Early life and career
Bacher was born in Loudonville, Ohio, and obtained his undergraduate degree and doctorate from the University of Michigan. He arrived at Cornell University as a physics instructor in 1935 and was a full professor when he left in 1949.
The atomic bomb
Bacher was one of hundreds of scientists recruited by the United States government's Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico in the 1940s. Bacher headed the project's physics division. On the day the bomb was to be test detonated in the New Mexico desert, Bacher assembled the plutonium core in an old farmhouse near the Alamogordo testing site. During this, the central portion wedged tightly and would go no further, causing a moment's panic, but Bacher managed to dislodge the jam after some nerve-wracking minutes, and transported the bomb to the testing site.
Following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Bacher developed mixed feelings about his participation in the Manhattan Project. While he felt satisfaction in helping to end the war, the remorse at helping to pioneer such destructive technology haunted him.
Post-World War II
In 1946 he became director of Cornell's Laboratory of Nuclear Studies. At the same time he began a three-year service on the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, in which role he testified before Congress on what he viewed as a deterioration in the nation's nuclear weapons program. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1953.
In 1954, after Manhattan Project director J. Robert Oppenheimer was falsely accused of having communist ties, Bacher became one of his staunchest supporters. Bacher also served on the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and to several top government panels throughout the 1950s.
Bacher was a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) chaired by James Rhyne Killian in 1958. He became a professor of physics at the California Institute of Technology in 1949, also chairing the division of physics, mathematics and astronomy from 1949 to 1962, when he was appointed as vice president and provost. He stepped down from the post of provost in 1970, and became a professor emeritus in 1976.
- Annotated bibliography for Robert Bacher from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
- Oral History interview transcript with Robert Bacher 30 June 1966, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives
- Oral History interview transcript with Robert Bacher 13 February 1986, American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library and Archives
Error creating thumbnail: File missing
|This article about an American physicist is a stub. You can help PhysicsWiki by expanding it.|