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Regrets, thoughts on war


Making plutonium, General Groves and Du Pont
John Wheeler Scientist
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So it was two years later, I was in the business of making plutonium with many friends and colleagues. We were working at Chicago and at the State of Washington, the Du Pont company had been persuaded by General Groves to take on the project of building the plant to make plutonium. In the old days, an alchemist was somebody who proposed to do a fantastic thing but couldn't. But here was alchemistry on an enormous scale. And Du Pont had to depend on these physics considerations to believe that the job could be done. They accepted a fee of $1.00 for the work. But the project, when it was finally turned over by Du Pont, after the war, and it was appraised, was something like $300 million.

John Wheeler, one of the world's most influential physicists, is best known for coining the term 'black holes', for his seminal contributions to the theories of quantum gravity and nuclear fission, as well as for his mind-stretching theories and writings on time, space and gravity.

Listeners: Ken Ford

Ken Ford took his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1953 and worked with Wheeler on a number of research projects, including research for the Hydrogen bomb. He was Professor of Physics at the University of California and Director of the American Institute of Physicists. He collaborated with John Wheeler in the writing of Wheeler's autobiography, 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics' (1998).

Duration: 1 minute, 27 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008