James Chadwick

Discoverer of Neutrons James Chadwick Complains of Scholarship on Nuclear Developments

Discoverer of Neutrons James Chadwick Complains of Scholarship on Nuclear Developments


“They—the Canadian team—do not seem to have realized how fortunate they were.”


JAMES CHADWICK, Autograph Letter Signed, to Leslie R. Groves Jr., November 13, 1969, Cambridge, England. 4 pp., 8" x 10".  Slight tear to bottom of pages 3-4, not affecting text; very good.



“We had a visit from Mrs Gowing a few days ago. She came to collect a draft of her account of the first few years after the war—an enormous volume of material which she had ferreted out from many sources. Much of it about Government policy etc., about which I had known practically nothing. It depressed me to read about it. Mrs. Gowing...hopes to have a draft of her second volume completed by Easter. This will then have to be submitted to some high authorities who may, and probably will, demand that some references to political discussions should be cut out. And there may be others who will interfere, as they did with the first volume. But, provided that she has sufficient time and energy to digest all the material she has collected, I believe that the second volume will be quite interesting.”


“I have not yet seen the second volume of the History of the A.E.C. and when I do see it I don’t suppose that I shall read very much of it. Some of these stories of the development of nuclear energy are so misleading on some matters that I can’t bear to read them to the end. I read about half of ‘Canada’s Nuclear Story’ and then gave up. I found two quotations from notes by John Cockcroft; one is quite untrue, the second gives a false implication. And now recently in reading Mrs Gowing’s draft of the first part of her second volume I found references to at least two complaints of the Canadian team about which I had never heard. If these complaints were valid they should have been made to me and to you. They—the Canadian team—do not seem to have realized how fortunate they were.”


Historical Background

Margaret Gowing (1921-1998) was an English historian who helped produce several volumes of the officially sponsored History of the Second World War. She was better known for her books commissioned by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, about the early history of Britain’s atomic weapons program. She published Britain and Atomic Energy, 1939-1945 in 1964, and the two-volume Independence and Deterrence: Britain and Atomic Energy, 1945-52 in 1974.  She worked as archivist for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority from 1959 to 1966. When she asked Chadwick what he intended to do with the wooden filing cabinets in his attic, and he replied, “Burn them,” she helped to establish the Centre for Scientific Archives in 1972 to house such resources.


In 1962, Richard G. Hewlett and Oscar E. Anderson Jr. published The New World, 1939/1946 as the first volume in A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. Hewlett (1923-2015) was the official historian of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) from 1957 to 1974, and of successor organizations the Energy Research and Development Administration and the Department of Energy, until his retirement in 1980. Anderson was a professional historian and member of the AEC’s historical staff. The second volume, by Hewlett and Francis Duncan, appeared in 1969 as Atomic Shield, 1947-52. Duncan was also a historian with the Atomic Energy Commission from 1962 to 1974.


Wilfrid Eggleston published Canada’s Nuclear Story in 1965. Prominent in that story is British physicist John Cockcroft (1897-1967), who became the director of the first Canadian nuclear laboratory in May 1944, a position he held until September 1946. Cockcroft won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1951 for splitting the atomic nucleus in 1932 at Cambridge.



James Chadwick (1891-1974) was born in England and graduated from the University of Manchester in 1911. He received further education in Germany but was placed in an internment camp during World War I, where he continued his experiments. He received a Ph.D. from Cambridge in 1921. In 1932, he discovered the neutron, for which he won the 1935 Nobel Prize in Physics. During World War II, Chadwick wrote the report that inspired the U.S. government to develop an atomic bomb. He carried out research as part of the Tube Alloys project to build an atomic bomb. After the Quebec Agreement of August 1943 merged the American and British atomic bomb research, Chadwick led the British team on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos and Washington, D.C. After the war, he served as the British scientific adviser to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission. From 1948 to 1958, he served as Master of Gonville and Caius College at the University of Cambridge.


Leslie R. Groves Jr. (1896-1970) was a United States Army General with the Corps of Engineers who oversaw the construction of the Pentagon and directed the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb during World War II. Born in New York to a Protestant pastor who became an army chaplain, Groves graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1918 in a course shortened because of World War I. He entered the Corps of Engineers and gained promotions to major by 1940. In 1941, he was charged with overseeing the construction of the Pentagon, the largest office building in the world, with more than five million square feet. Disappointed that he had not received a combat assignment, Groves instead took charge of the Manhattan Project, designed to develop an atomic bomb. He continued nominally to supervise the Pentagon project to avoid suspicion, gained promotion to brigadier general, and began his work in September 1942. The project headquarters was initially in the War Department building in Washington, but in August 1943, moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He and physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer selected the site in Los Alamos, New Mexico, for a laboratory, and Groves pushed successfully for Oppenheimer to be placed in charge. Groves was in charge of obtaining critical uranium ores internationally and collecting military intelligence on Axis atomic research. Promoted to major general in March 1944, Groves received the Distinguished Service Medal for his work on the Manhattan Project after the war. In 1947, Groves became chief of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. He received a promotion to lieutenant general in January 1948, just days before meeting with Army Chief of Staff Dwight D. Eisenhower, who reviewed a long list of complaints against Groves. Assured that he would not become Chief of Engineers, Groves retired in February 1948. From 1948 to 1961, he was a vice president of Sperry Rand, an equipment and electronics firm. After retirement, he served as president of the West Point alumni association and wrote a book on the Manhattan Project, published in 1962.






Item: 67335

Price: $1,300.00
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