George Kistiakowsky (1900-1982)
Born in Russia on November 18, 1900, he was one of the few scientists at Los Alamos who had experienced combat. During the Russian Revolution he fought in the infantry and the tank corps of the White Army. After the Bolsheviks assumed power in Russia, Kistiakowsky fled to Germany. There he studied chemistry at the University of Berlin, receiving his Ph. D. in 1925. Upon moving to the United States, he joined the faculty at Harvard.
Kistiakowsky joined the Manhattan Project in late January 1944. He had been studying explosives for the National Defense Research Committee. Having replaced Seth Neddermeyer as lead on the implosion program, Kistiakowsky had over 600 people working on the problem by the spring of 1945.
Under his leadership, they were able to develop the complex explosive lenses needed to compress the plutonium sphere uniformly to achieve critical mass.
Kistiakowsky returned to Harvard at the end of World War II and divided his time between teaching and advising several US administrations on arms control and foreign policy. He served on the President’s Science Advisory Committee between 1957 and 1964, and as the Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology from 1959 to 1961. In 1958, Kistiakowsky was a member of the US delegation to Geneva, where the US and USSR discussed how to minimize the danger of a surprise nuclear attack. He retired from Harvard as professor emeritus in 1972, and he died on December 7, 1982.