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Collection Hugh T. Richards
WVM ID Number OH 179
Object Name Oral History
Title Oral History Interview with Hugh T. Richards
Date 1995
Event World War II
Narrator's Name Hugh T. Richards
Interviewer's Name Mark Van Ells
Description In this oral history interview, Hugh T. Richards, a Baca County, Colorado native, talks about his experiences working on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos during World War II.
He describes how he became interested in nuclear physics during college and started graduate work at Rice University (Texas) in 1939. He touches on taking over classes for a professor who left to work on radar and writing his Master's thesis on measuring fast neutron energies by use of photographic emulsions. He tells of signing onto an Office of Scientific Research and Development contract and working under Gregory Breit. He mentions finishing up his project at Rice University, driving to the University of Minnesota with a uranium sphere in his glove compartment to help them wrap up their research, and consolidating with other projects in 1943 at Los Alamos (New Mexico). He recalls hearing Robert Serber's indoctrination lectures and helping set up his team's two electrostatic accelerators. He explains how a nuclear bomb works and the difficulties posed by the need to separate enough of the rare 235 uranium isotope. He talks about spending a couple weeks measuring properties of plutonium and explains the development of implosion techniques. He discusses the security at Los Alamos. He characterizes the Army's interactions with the scientists as not obtrusive and states he had a Women's Army Corps soldier working as a laboratory assistant. He relates his participation in the Trinity test, including measuring neutrons' time sequences and his reactions after witnessing the blast. He reflects on inflicting civilian casualties in a total war situation, the scientists' lack of concern about long-term effects from exposure to radiation, and recent radiation hormesis theories.

Richards comments on his own reaction after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. After the war, he speaks of joining the Association of Los Alamos Scientists. He discusses his career at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, installing the first tandem-type accelerator in Sterling Hall. He details hearing the Sterling Hall bombing and describes the destruction it caused Professor Henry Barschall's research, his own lab, and his students' research. Richards mentions his role in reconstruction efforts.
Extent and Medium of Description Analog audio recording: 1 audio cassette
Transcript: 29 pgs.
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Biographical Record Richards, Hugh T.