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Movie About Oppenheimer reminds us that Hastings on Hudson Nobel Prize winner was involved in Manhattan Project: A timely reminder of Hastings’ Best and Brightest Physicists, James Rainwater & Jack Steinberger
A new movie about the development and testing of the atomic bomb directed by Christopher Nolan (director of: Batman Begins(2005), Batman: The Dark Night (2008), and Batman: The Dark Night Rises( 2012) ) is coming out, called “Oppenheimer.” This film is named after J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who directed the Manhattan Project which developed the atomic bomb. The reason a physicist was placed in charge of the project is because in order to detonate an atomic bomb, atoms have to be split in a process called “nuclear fission.” Only some chemists and some physicists understand how to do it.
As we reflect on the importance of physics, this reminds us of our article , Hastings’ Best and Brightest: Nobel Laureates of Hastings, which we wrote on 8/1/2020. We are reminded of our previous article because two of these Nobel Laureates were physicists, James Rainwater and Jack Steinberger, one of whom even worked on the Manhattan Project alongside Mr. Oppenheimer. Shortly after he graduated with his bachelor’s in physics in 1939, Rainwater moved from California to New York and became one of the scientists involved with the Manhattan Project.
Hastings’ Best and Brightest Physicists, James Rainwater & Jack Steinberger:
James Rainwater (December 9 1917 - May 31 1986)
James Leo Rainwater was born on December 9 1917 in Council, Idaho. His father died in the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1918. When his mother remarried, the family moved to Hanford, California, located in the San Joaquin Valley. His early years were spent in California. James loved school and was particularly gifted in physics and chemistry(https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1975/rainwater/biographical/). After high school he attended California Institute of Technology. He graduated with his bachelor’s in physics in 1939. Somewhere around this time, he moved to the State of New York, enrolled in Columbia University’s P.H.D. Physics Program, and became one of the scientists involved with the Manhattan Project (MICROSOFT ENCARTA, 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation).
He graduated, thereby earning his doctorate, in 1946. His work on the Manhattan Project which led to the development of the atomic bomb, stimulated his interest in sub-atomic particles. Therefore, in 1949, he began studying atomic nuclei. At this time only two models of the nucleus existed, The Liquid Drop Model proposed by Niels Bohr in 1936, which said that as a liquid the nucleus could change shape and the Shell Model proposed by Maria Goeppert-Mayer and Johannes Hans Daniel Jensen in 1949. The Shell Model said that protons and neutrons moved in circles around the inside of the nucleus. Both models explained some important features of the atom but ignored other important properties.
In 1952, he became a professor of physics at Columbia University, and with the university’s full blessing and financial support, began creating a different model of the nucleus which would cover all of its properties, both those explained by The Liquid Drop Model but ignored by The Shell Model and those explained by The Shell Model but ignored by The Liquid Drop Model. His solution was The Oblong Nucleus Model. It was for this model that he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1975. He retired from Columbia in early May of 1986(MICROSOFT ENCARTA, 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation). He passed away on May 31 1986 in Yonkers (https://www.britannica.com/biography/James-Rainwater). It would be 1988, a full 13 years after James Rainwater won his Nobel Prize in Physics, before a Hastings native would again take home the prize.
Hans Jakob “Jack” Steinberger( May 25 1921- December 14 2020)
Hans Jakob “Jack” Steinberger was born on May 25 1921 in Bad Kissingen Germany. His father Ludwig Steinberger was a cantor at their local synagogue and a religious teacher at a local Hebrew School. This meant that things became very difficult for him and his family when Adolph Hitler was elected Chancellor of Germany in 1933. By the next year, Hitler had absolute power. One of the first laws Hitler’s regime passed, was a law which prevented Jewish children from attending higher education in public schools. Seeing the situation get steadily worse, Jack’s father put him on a ship bound for New York, on Christmas Day 1934. From there, Jack took a train to Chicago and stayed with Barnett Faroll, a local grain merchant who taught him what was necessary as far as a high-school education, and then, later made it possible also for his parents and younger brother to come in to America in 1938, thus escaping the Holocaust. He studied chemical engineering at Armour Institute of Technology (now the Illinois Institute of Technology). But he suffered from severe depression and never finished, dropping out after only two years.
He had extreme difficulty finding a job, but was eventually able to find work at G.D. Searl, and Co a pharmaceutical company. He simultaneously helped at his parent’s store on weekends. On week nights he attended the University of Chicago studying chemistry. In 1941 he got a scholarship, which enabled him to finally attend day classes and graduate in 1942. After graduation, he joined the United States Army in order to help the U.S. war-effort during WWII (https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1988/steinberger/biogr)aphical/). He was assigned to the MIT Radiation Laboratory which was making radar bomb sights (MICROSOFT ENCARTA, 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation). There were a lot of physicists employed at the laboratory and two of these men, Ed Purcell and Julian Schwinger, he found particularly interesting. They inspired him to take the first physics course he had taken since his brief time at Armour Institute of Technology. He took several basic physics courses there at the laboratory which the army funded.
When the war ended, he enrolled in the University of Chicago, where he earned both a master’s and a doctorate in physics. After graduation in 1948, he taught at the University of Berkeley for one year before resigning and taking a job at Columbia University. He worked at Columbia from 1950-1968 when he joined The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). The name CERN, is an abbreviation of its name in French. It was at CERN that he devised a way to see Neutrinos (the plural of neutron, the neutral sub-atomic particle, which like the positively charged proton, also resides inside the nucleus of an atom (MICROSOFT ENCARTA, 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation). He retired from CERN in 1986 (https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1988/steinberger/biographical/). In recognition of this discovery, he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1988 (MICROSOFT ENCARTA, 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation). He passed away, peacefully in his home at the age of 99, in December of 2020 (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/16/science/jack-steinberger-dead.html).
In conclusion, Hastings is home to many Nobel Laureates. Six Nobel Prizes are awarded each year in one for each of the following categories: Literature, Economics, Chemistry, Physics, Medicine, and Peace. While a Nobel Prize in anything is impressive, with the movie Oppenheimer coming out, we decided to pay special attention to Greenburgh’s Nobel Prize winning Physicists, James Rainwater, who actually worked on the Manhattan Project alongside Mr. Oppenheimer, and Jack Steinberger.
Previous Slices of History include:
About the Authors:
We are both Town Historians at Greenburgh Town Hall and we are engaged to be married and are currently looking for permanent employment.
I was born and raised in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania. In high school, I took every honors course available including four years of Spanish. I received A’s in all of them. I graduated third in my class of 146 students. This brought me to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Once there, I continued my trend of academic excellence. I graduated summa cum laude in Political Science with a minor in Spanish and a Master’s in Communication Studies, with a G.P.A of 3.94. It was also there that I met my lovely fiancée, Felicia Barber. My Master’s in Communication has promoted public speaking, teamwork, and customer service. My Political Science degree has developed my research skills using computer-based tools and provided me with experience using the Microsoft Office products. My minor in Spanish has facilitated my bilingual capabilities. During my internship at Greenburgh, I created the petition for the State Roads project using website tools. My diverse education and areas of interest have provided me with a wide range of skills. I look forward to finding a career opportunity in business or government. To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to help me find employment, you can contact me at email@example.com.
I was born in New York City and raised in Hartsdale, New York. I graduated from Ardsley High School. I recently earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. It was here that I met my fiancé, Riley Wentzler. As a result of my academic excellence, I won a scholarship every year. I learned and applied many graphic design skills to projects during my summer internships and at school. I am proficient in using Adobe graphic design applications including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. For my Identity/branding course at Edinboro, I created logos to appear on the tee-shirts of Physical Education majors. For a veteran’s upcoming event, I used a typeface to focus the reader to the soldier in the poster. For the State Roads Legislative Campaign project, I created the embedded graphic-photo that accompanied the petition I am looking for a job to utilize my skills as a Graphic Designer in an agency, print shop, company or government To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about my artwork or to help me find employment you can contact me at email@example.com.
Two Interviews with the authors:
Editors, E. B. (2019, (NOT GIVEN) (NOT GIVEN)). James Rainwater . Retrieved from The Encyclopedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/biography/James-Rainwater
Martin, D. (2020, December 16). Jack Steinberger, Nobel Winner in Physics, Dies at 99. New York Times , p. 12.
Microsoft Corporation. (1993-2003, (Not Given) (Not Given)). Encarta Encyclopedia . Redmond , Washington , United States of America.
The Nobel Prize Foundation. (1975, October 13). James Rainwater Biographical Retrieved from The Nobel Prize: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1975/rainwater/biographical/
The Nobel Prize Foundation. (1988, October 13). Jack Steinberger Biographical . Retrieved from The Nobel Prize : https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1988/steinberger/facts/