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Robert Bacher

Robert Bacher

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Robert Fox Bacher was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 nuclear
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...

 physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

 and one of the leaders of the Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

.

Early life and career


Bacher was born in Loudonville, Ohio
Loudonville, Ohio
Loudonville is a village in Ashland and Holmes counties in the U.S. state of Ohio. The population was 2,906 at the 2000 census. Loudonville is nicknamed the "Canoe Capital of Ohio" for the many canoe liveries along the Mohican River...

, and obtained his undergraduate degree
Undergraduate degree
An undergraduate degree is a colloquial term for an academic degree taken by a person who has completed undergraduate courses. It is usually offered at an institution of higher education, such as a university...

 and doctorate
Doctorate
A doctorate is an academic degree or professional degree that in most countries refers to a class of degrees which qualify the holder to teach in a specific field, A doctorate is an academic degree or professional degree that in most countries refers to a class of degrees which qualify the holder...

 from the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

. He arrived at Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

 as a physics instructor in 1935 and was a full professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 when he left in 1949.

The atomic bomb


Bacher was one of hundreds of scientists recruited by the United States government's Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

 to build the atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Los Alamos is a townsite and census-designated place in Los Alamos County, New Mexico, United States, built upon four mesas of the Pajarito Plateau and the adjoining White Rock Canyon. The population of the CDP was 12,019 at the 2010 Census. The townsite or "the hill" is one part of town while...

 in the 1940s. Bacher headed the project's physics division. On the day the bomb was to be test detonated
Trinity test
Trinity was the code name of the first test of a nuclear weapon. This test was conducted by the United States Army on July 16, 1945, in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, at the new White Sands Proving Ground, which incorporated the Alamogordo Bombing...

 in the New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

 desert, Bacher assembled the plutonium core in an old farmhouse
McDonald Ranch House
The McDonald Ranch House was the location of assembly for the first tested nuclear weapon. The test occurred on July 16, 1945; a plutonium bomb was tested, the type of weapon later dropped on Nagasaki, Japan...

 near the Alamogordo testing site. During this, the central portion wedged tightly and would go no further, causing a moment's panic, but Bacher managed to dislodge the jam after some nerve-wracking minutes, and transported the bomb to the testing site.

Following the bombing of Hiroshima
Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

 and Nagasaki
Nagasaki
is the capital and the largest city of Nagasaki Prefecture on the island of Kyushu in Japan. Nagasaki was founded by the Portuguese in the second half of the 16th century on the site of a small fishing village, formerly part of Nishisonogi District...

, Bacher developed mixed feelings about his participation in the Manhattan Project. While he felt satisfaction in helping to end the war, the remorse at helping to pioneer such destructive technology haunted him.

Post-World War II


In 1946 he became director of Cornell's Laboratory of Nuclear Studies. At the same time he began a three-year service on the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, in which role he testified before Congress on what he viewed as a deterioration in the nation's nuclear weapons program. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

 in 1953.

In 1954, after Manhattan Project director J. Robert Oppenheimer was falsely accused of having communist ties, Bacher became one of his staunchest supporters. Bacher also served on the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, and to several top government panels throughout the 1950s.

Bacher was a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee
President's Science Advisory Committee
In 1951 President of the United States Harry S. Truman established the Science Advisory Committee as part of the Office of Defense Mobilization . As a direct response to the launches of the Soviet artificial satellites, Sputnik 1 and Sputnik 2, on October 4 and November 3, 1957, the Science...

 (PSAC) chaired by James Rhyne Killian
James Rhyne Killian
Dr. James Rhyne Killian, Jr. was the 10th president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from 1948 until 1959.-Career:...

 in 1958. He became a professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 of physics at the California Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology
The California Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering...

 in 1949, also chairing the division of physics, mathematics and astronomy from 1949 to 1962, when he was appointed as vice president and provost
Provost (education)
A provost is the senior academic administrator at many institutions of higher education in the United States, Canada and Australia, the equivalent of a pro-vice-chancellor at some institutions in the United Kingdom and Ireland....

. He stepped down from the post of provost in 1970, and became a professor emeritus in 1976.

Death


Bacher died at a retirement home
Retirement home
A retirement home is a multi-residence housing facility intended for senior citizens. Typically each person or couple in the home has an apartment-style room or suite of rooms. Additional facilities are provided within the building, including facilities for meals, gathering, recreation, and some...

 in Montecito, California
Montecito, California
Montecito is an unincorporated community in Santa Barbara County, California. As a census-designated place, it had a population of 8,965 in 2010. This does not include areas such as Coast Village Road, that, while usually considered part of Montecito, are actually within the city limits of Santa...

. He was survived by a daughter, Martha Bacher Eaton, and a son, Andrew Dow Bacher, who is a nuclear physicist.

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