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Kenneth Bainbridge

Kenneth Bainbridge

BornJuly 27 1904
Cooperstown, New York
DiedJuly 14 1996
Nationality United States
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology (B.A., S.M.)
Princeton University (Ph.D.)
Known forDirector of the Trinity test

Kenneth Tompkins Bainbridge (July 27 1904 – July 14 1996) was a physicist at Harvard University who did work on cyclotron research and was the Director of the Trinity test of the Manhattan Project, which took place July 16, 1945. Bainbridge called the Trinity explosion a "foul and awesome display" and remarked to J. Robert Oppenheimer immediately after the test, "Now we are all sons of bitches."[1] This marked the beginning of his dedication to ending the testing of nuclear weapons and to efforts to maintain civilian control of future developments in that field.


Early career

Kenneth T. Bainbridge was born on July 27, 1904 in Cooperstown, New York. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1922 to 1926, earning B.A. and S.M. degrees in electrical engineering. Upon completing his work at MIT, he enrolled at Princeton University. Over the previous few years, he had developed an interest in physics, and chose to pursue this new interest at Princeton. In 1929, he was awarded a Ph.D. in his new field.

Bainbridge enjoyed a series of prestigious fellowships after graduation, first awarded by the National Research Council, then the Bartol Research Foundation, and finally the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. When his Guggenheim fellowship expired, he accepted an associate professorship at Harvard University and began working on a pair of cyclotrons. Bainbridge's work at Harvard resulted in his recruitment as leader of the MIT radiation laboratory's radar project. He worked with several notable physicists at the laboratory, including Hans Bethe and Robert Bacher. Their next assignment would call for the assembly of an atomic bomb.

Manhattan Project

In May 1943, Bainbridge joined the Project Y staff at Los Alamos. First he led E-9, which was charged with instrumentation development. After the lab reorganization of 1944, he worked under George Kistiakowsky as X-2 leader. In this position, he was in charge of "gadget" engineering and test preparations. On July 16, 1945, Bainbridge and his colleagues detonated an implosion bomb. Bainbridge was relieved that the Trinity test had been a success, relating in a 1975 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists article, "I had a feeling of exhilaration that the 'gadget' had gone off properly followed by one of deep relief. I wouldn't have to go to the tower to see what had gone wrong."


Bainbridge returned to Harvard after the war, and initiated the construction of a 96-inch synchro-cyclotron which is still in use today. From 1950-1954, he chaired the physics department at Harvard. During those years, he drew the ire of Senator Joseph McCarthy for his aggressive defense of his colleagues in academia. Throughout the '50s, Bainbridge remained an outspoken proponent of civilian control of atomic energy and the abandonment of nuclear testing. In 1976, Bainbridge retired from Harvard. He died in 1996 at the age of 91.

See also


  1. ^ The Trinity Test, July 16, 1945. The Manhattan Project. U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved on 2007-09-07.

NAME Bainbridge, Kenneth Tompkins
SHORT DESCRIPTION American physicist
DATE OF BIRTH July 27 1904
PLACE OF BIRTH Cooperstown, New York
DATE OF DEATH July 14 1996
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Kenneth_Bainbridge". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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