Robert Serber (1909 - 1997)
Born March 14, 1909, in Philadelphia, Serber earned a doctorate in physics at the University of Wisconsin in 1934. He moved to the University of California, Berkeley, to work with J. Robert Oppenheimer. He later became an associate professor at the University of Illinois, until Oppenheimer, his friend and mentor, asked him to join him on the Manhattan Project.
During the summer of 1942 many of the basic principles of fission bomb physics and design were worked out. Serber developed the first good theory of bomb disassembly hydrodynamics. In April 1943, when scientists were first gathering at Los Alamos, Serber presented a series of five lectures which summarized all that was known at the time about designing and building an atomic bomb (mostly Serber's own work). His notes for those introductory sessions became the “Los Alamos Primer”.
In early September 1945, he was with the first American team to enter Hiroshima and Nagasaki to assess the damage from the atomic bombs. He spent five weeks there to assess the damage and to collect debris for tests.
While he later became an advocate of arms control, he never became an outspoken critic of nuclear weapons, as did some other Manhattan Project scientists. He retired from Columbia University in 1978, and later was named a professor emeritus at the university. He died on June 1, 1997.