Reilly: LANL, Why Didn’t Oppie Win A Nobel Prize?

Los Alamos

I enjoyed this article in last Thursday’s Daily Post printed edition (link). However, I think it left off the principal reason he was never awarded the prize.

Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, was distressed by its military uses. He stipulated in the Nobel Prize instructions that it must never be given for anything that had military applications.

While Oppie had scientific work outside nuclear weapons, especially the paper co-written after the Manhattan Project that described what we now call Black Holes; he was so connected to Los Alamos and the atomic bomb, I believe this kept him from consideration for the Nobel.

The two people who waited longest for the Nobel were Hans Bethe (25 years) and Fred Reines (40 years). Both were intimately involved with weapons. In fact, Bethe called up Fred when the prize was announced and thanked him for removing his claim to having waited the longest.

Bethe headed T-Division during the war years. Fred became a test director in the Pacific and was director of Operation Greenhouse, which included the first test of boosting, the last step before the hydrogen bomb.

I think they waited because of their weapons work.

Of course there were others who worked on the bomb who’d already been awarded a Nobel, and some rewarded for work done afterwards.

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