|Born||1 Dec 1910|
|Died||30 May 1946|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Louis Slotin was born as the first of three children to Israel and Sonia Slotin in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He grew up in the North End neighborhood of Winnipeg among any Eastern European immigrants much like his parents. He attended the Machray Elementary School, St. Johns Technical High School, and the University of Manitoba; at the latter, he received a University Gold Medal in both physics and chemistry. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in geology in 1932 and then a Master of Science degree in 1933. He then went on to study chemistry under Arthur John Allmand at the King's College in London, England, United Kingdom. At King's College, he won the college's amateur bantamweight boxing championship, and went on a brief tour to Spain (which he exaggerated into a volunteer service tour of military duty during the Spanish Civil War). He completed his studies at King's College in 1936, receiving a doctorate degree in physical chemistry. He spent 6 months working as a special investigator for Dublin's Great Southern Railways in Ireland testing the Drumm nickel-zinc rechargeable batteries used on the Dublin-Bray line. In 1937, he sought employment with the Canadian National Research Council, but was rejected. Later in the same year, he accepted a low-paying position as a research associate at the University of Chicago in Illinois, United States, and he was exposed to the field of nuclear chemistry. Between 1939 and 1940, together with colleague Earl Evans, they produced radiocarbon carbon-14 and radiocarbon carbon-11 from the newly constructed cyclotron at the university. His published papers caught the attention of the United States government, and he was soon invited to join the Manhattan Project to research the possibility of using nuclear fission as a weapon.
With the Manhattan Project, Slotin worked on the production of plutonium under Eugene Wigner at the University of Chicago and later the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, United States. In Dec 1944, he was transferred to the bomb physics group under Robert Bacher at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, United States. Among his duties at Los Alamos was performing criticality testing, and in that role he helped determine the critical mass values of uranium and plutonium cores. On 16 Jul 1945, he assembled the atomic bomb Gadget for Operation Trinity, and received the nickname "Chief Armorer of the United States". Just after the end of hostilities in the Pacific, his colleague Harry Daghlian was accidentally exposed to a lethal dose of radiation, and Slotin spent many hours with the dying Daghlian in the hospital. After the war, Slotin expressed regret for having participated in the creation of such terrible weapons.
At 1520 hours on 21 May 1946, Slotin accidentally set of a prompt critical reaction when he allowed two beryllium hemispheres to touch with a plutonium core in the center. He realized his mistake immediately and lifted the upper hemisphere with his left hand, averting disaster, but not before he received 2,100 rems of radiation, which was about four times greater than what was considered to be lethal. He was rushed to the hospital. The plutonium core involved in this accident was the same one in the accident with Daghlian less than a year prior, thus it was soon nicknamed "Demon core". He was rushed to the hospital. He passed away nine days after the accident with his parents next to his hospital bed.
Although many thought Slotin saved the lives of other scientists in the laboratory by his quick reaction during the accident, fellow physicist Robert Brode noted that it was Slotin's fault, by using improper procedures, which led to the accident in the first place.
Louis Slotin Timeline
|1 Dec 1910||Louis Slotin was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.|
|16 Jul 1945||Canadian physicist Louis Slotin assembled the atomic bomb Gadget for Operation Trinity, and received the nickname "Chief Armorer of the United States".|
|21 May 1946||Canadian Manhattan Project Louis Slotin accidentally set of a prompt critical reaction when he allowed two beryllium hemispheres to touch with a plutonium core in the center. He realized his mistake immediately and lifted the upper hemisphere with his left hand, averting disaster, but not before he received 2,100 rems of radiation. He was rushed to the hospital. The plutonium core involved in this accident was the same one in the accident with physicist Harry Daghlian in 1945.|
|30 May 1946||Canadian Manhattan Project Louis Slotin, after receiving a fatal dose of radiation during an accident on 21 May, passed away in a hospital.|
|2 Jun 1946||Louis Slotin was buried in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.|
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Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943