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    Manhattan Project: Nuclear Physicist Eugene Booth Archive with Trinitite Paperweight. The items in this lot relate to the development of the atomic bomb and the detonation of the first such weapon at Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945. The key piece is an 1 ¼" plastic paperweight that contains a 5/8" specimen of Trinitite. This is the end product of an atomic blast caused when sand on the surface of ground zero is drawn up into the nuclear fireball, descending in liquid form. The resulting "mineral" is composed of three layers (a sprinkling of dust, a thicker layer of partially fused material which grades into the soil from which it derived, and glass bubbles of various sizes). Green is the most common color, with black and red specimens being extremely rare. Red contains copper from the bomb itself or from communication cables that led away from the site. Military personnel gathered samples after the blast and some were sold as novelties to mineral collectors, until the site was bulldozed and removal of specimens made illegal. We sold a green example, mounted on a hexagonal base, two years ago for $13,000. This red example is distinctive not solely for its rare color, but by virtue of its provenance. It was given as a sample to one of the nuclear physicists involved in both pioneering research and the Manhattan Project. The items offered here were consigned by the daughter of Eugene T. Booth (1912-2004). Booth received his Ph.D. from Oxford in 1937 and was then hired by John Dunning of Columbia University as a nuclear research assistant tasked to build a 36" cyclotron. In January 1939, the research team (Enrico Fermi, Dunning, Booth, Herbert Anderson, G. Norris Glasoe and Francis Slack) used the cyclotron to conduct the first nuclear fission experiment in the New World (German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman are credited with first achieving nuclear fission in December 1938). Niels Bohr related the German discovery at a Princeton lecture. Two Columbia physicists working at Princeton, Isidor Rabi and Willis Lamb relayed the findings to Enrico Fermi, which gave the impetus for the Columbia lab to pursue the project. In 1940, John Dunning, Eugene Booth, A. V. Grosse and Al Nier were the first to determine that U-235 was the thermally fissionable component of uranium. In 1941, the same team developed the gaseous diffusion method for separating U-235 from the more abundant U-238. With the arrival of World War II, Booth was a member of Columbia's scientific staff in the Division of War Research. Once the Manhattan Project was inaugurated, he worked primarily on techniques for isotope separation, operating out of a separate building at Broadway and 126th Street in Manhattan. He was a "Team Leader" under Harold C. Urey, Chairman of the Chemistry Department at Columbia who worked in tandem with John Dunning, head of the Physics Department. Besides the Trinitite paperweight (presented to Booth by General Groves in 1945), the lot includes the following ancillary material:
    1. An October 10, 1945 TLS from Major General Leslie R. Groves (overall military commander in charge of the Manhattan Project) to Dr. Booth with great content ("... More than mere words can state, the War Department, the Manhattan Engineer District, and I personally, appreciate the great contribution which you have made to the development of the atomic bomb... Your physical research work on the development of barriers for the separation of uranium by the diffusion process in the SAM Laboratories of Columbia University was an essential factor in our success. Your self-sacrificing devotion to our cause, your scientific skill and judgment, and your energy and ingenuity are beyond praise.")
    2. A photocopy of an August 24, 1945 letter from Harold C. Urey to Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler specifically related to Dr. Booth's involvement in the atomic bomb project ('...The recent use of the atomic bomb and subsequent publications regarding the work of this project now make it possible for you to reveal Dr. Booth's connection with it. It is also possible for you to now understand the real reasons why his services were so urgently needed and to appreciate the contribution your institution has made by lending his services to us.") Urey, General Groves and Fermi were at the Trinity Test Site when the bomb test occurred.
    3. A New York Times article, dated December 16, 1970, reporting on the donation of Columbia's historic cyclotron to the Smithsonian Institution.
    4. An 8" x 10" black & white glossy news photo of Dr. John Dunning, Dr. Booth and three colleagues with the historic cyclotron (a slightly different shot than the one used in the article).
    5. An 11" x 15" pebbled leather binder from the Atomic Energy Commission containing color copies of the 1971 "Special Recognition Citation" given to Dunning, Booth, Nier and Grosse. Each honoree received a binder and two copies of the citation. The whereabouts of the original citation is unknown, but it may have gone to Stevens Institute of Technology, where Booth served as Dean of Graduate Studies.
    6. An 8" x 10" black & white glossy news photo of Glenn Seaborg presenting the citation to Dr. Booth.
    7. A May 27, 1984 TLS from author Richard Rhodes (Pulitzer Prize winner for "The Making of the Atomic Bomb") to Dr. Booth, thanking him to his advice and answers to several questions ("...From this side of 1945 it's difficult to realize that in 1940 a bomb wasn't, for most of you, a first thought... The Einstein letter was apparently less influential than some have written... Teller actually raised the question of money, apparently by way of delivering a request from Fermi for funds for the graphite absorption experiment... Interesting also that gaseous diffusion was resisted here when it was an early choice of Peierls and Simon in England...").

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2013
    22nd-23rd Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 4
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,951

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