Cover image for Their day in the sun : women of the Manhattan Project
Their day in the sun : women of the Manhattan Project
Howes, Ruth (Ruth Hege)
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Philadelphia, PA : Temple University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
viii, 264 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Format :


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Home Location
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QC773.3.U5 H68 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The public perception of the making of the atomic bomb is yet an image of the dramatic efforts of a few brilliant male scientists. However, the Manhattan Project was not just the work of a few and it was not just in Los Alamos. It was, in fact, a sprawling research and industrial enterprise that spanned the country from Hanford in Washington State to Oak Ridge in Tennessee, and the Met labs in Illinois. The Manhattan Project also included women in every capacity. During World War II the manpower shortages opened the laboratory doors to women and they embraced the opportunity to demonstrate that they, too, could do "creative science." Although women participated in all aspects of the Manhattan Project, their contributions are either omitted or only mentioned briefly in most histories of the project. It is this hidden story that is presented in Their Day in the Sun through interviews, written records, and photographs of the women who were physicists, chemists, mathematicians, biologists, and technicians in the labs. Authors Ruth H. Howes and Caroline L. Herzenberg have uncovered accounts of the scientific problems the women helped solve as well as the opportunities and discrimination they faced. Their Day in the Sun describes their abrupt recruitment for the war effort and includes anecdotes about everyday life in these clandestine improvised communities. A chapter about what happened to the women after the war and about their attitudes now, so many years later, toward the work they did on the bomb is included.

Author Notes

Ruth H. Howes is the George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Ball State University. She is a past president of the American Association of Physics Teachers and the Indiana Academy of Science
Caroline L. Herzenberg is a physicist who has recently retired from Argonne National Laboratory and now works in radiological emergency preparedness with ICF Consulting. She is a past president of the Association for Women in Science

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

As detailed in this book, many women worked on the Manhattan Project, from physicists and mathematicians at Los Alamos to public health specialists at Oak Ridge and Hanford to chemists at the Metallurgical Lab of the University of Chicago. Working from archival files at the various labs and universities and then pursuing leads developed through personal and telephone-based interviews, the authors, both physicists, have identified several hundred women affiliated in some way with the project. Valuable because so little has been written on this subject, this book is nevertheless frustrating because of its anecdotal nature. In many cases, the text jumps from person to person, simply presenting a sentence or two about each one as though that were all the files and investigation could produce. Still, the book is quite interesting in what it reveals, both particularly about the chauvinism of the project's male management and the na‹vet‚ of professional and support staff regarding the harmful effects of nuclear materials. Recommended for academic history of science collections.ÄHilary Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. vii
Prologuep. 1
1 The Great Scientific Adventurep. 6
2 The Founding Mothers: Pioneers in Nuclear Sciencep. 20
3 The Physicistsp. 35
4 The Chemistsp. 67
5 Mathematicians and Calculatorsp. 93
6 Biologists and Medical Scientistsp. 115
7 The Techniciansp. 132
8 Other Women of the Manhattan Projectp. 152
9 After the Warp. 181
Epiloguep. 201
Appendix 1 Female Scientific and Technical Workers in the Manhattan Projectp. 203
Appendix 2 Chronologyp. 219
Referencesp. 237
Indexp. 253