Teller, Edward; Emilio Segrè, et al.

(Manhattan Project) LA Report 24. Lecture Series on Nuclear Physics.

  • A rare pre-publication copy of the Manhattan Project Lecture Series on Nuclear Physics. The text comprises forty-one talks on nuclear physics given by the project’s leaders between September 14, 1943 and March 12, 1944. Like everything produced at Los Alamos, these lectures were highly classified. Only a small number of copies were mimeographed for the use of high-level employees, and it is likely that many of them were destroyed for security reasons before the content was declassified in October 1945. The texts were first officially published by the US Government Printing Office in 1947. Only three other copies of the mimeographed edition have appeared at auction, and a global library catalogue search through WorldCat locates eight in institutions.

    Given the secrecy and scarcity of pre-publication copies, this copy must have originally belonged to a Project employee. It bears the ownership inscription and manuscript notes of Princeton student John “Jack” Howard Irving, so the original owner was almost certainly either Walter Kauzmann or Eugene Wigner, both of whom worked on the Manhattan Project and taught Irving at Princeton after the War.

    Jack Irving earned his undergraduate degree at Caltech in 1942. He worked at MIT’s Rad Lab during the war and completed his MA in Physics at Princeton between 1946 and 1948. He then accepted a fellowship to study statistical mechanics at Caltech, after which he became Head of Systems Planning and Analysis at Hughes Aircraft, where his group developed the first airborne digital computer for fighter aircraft. In 1954 he joined the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation where he worked on synchronous orbit satellites, and in 1960 he was hired by the not-for-profit Aerospace Corporation as head of the Systems Research and Planning Division. Irving returned to Princeton to complete his PhD between 1963 and 1965. (Los Angeles Times obituary, November 16, 2008.)

    The Princeton Mudd Manuscript Library has confirmed the dates Irving was a student at the school and informed us that that a number of his classes and most of his dissertation and research work was done with Eugene Wigner. The title of his dissertation was Wigner Distribution Functions in Relativistic Quantum Mechanics, and Walter Kauzmann served as one of the principal examiners. While it is possible this was Wigner’s copy, Kauzmann returned to Princeton from the Manhattan Project in 1946, about a year before Wigner, and the ownership inscription on the cover is dated 1946. It therefore seems likely that Kauzmann gave or loaned this copy to Irving during the first year of his MA.  There are manuscript annotations in pen and ink throughout the text, and while most of the ink (and a few other pencil) annotations appear to be Irving's, there are a number of pencil notations in an unidentified hand. They are not Wigner's, and while it is possible they could be Kauzmann's, we have been unable to verify one way or the other.

    The lectures printed here include an introductory series on terminology and basic nuclear physics by E. M. McMillan; a series on radioactivity, including radioactive decay, particle interactions, and the properties of nuclei, by Emilio Segrè, Edward Teller, and Felix Bloch; six lectures on neutron physics by J. H. Williams; four lectures on the two-body problem and proton/neutron interactions by C. L. Critchfield; a series on the statistical theory of nuclear reactions by Victor Weisskopf; a series on diffusion theory, including the damping of neutrons, by Robert F. Christy.

  • [Los Alamos, NM: Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories, 1943-44.] Perfect bound in contemporary brown Accopress card binder, 329 mimeographed leaves printed on the rectos only. Hand-written title and ownership stickers to the upper cover. Contemporary or near-contemporary pencil and ink annotations to the text. A little rubbing and some spots to the binder, lower corner of binder torn, contents faintly toned. Excellent condition.

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