Atom Splitting / Atomzertrümmerung: Austrian Manhattan Project Scientist Otto Robert Frisch in Los Alamos, 1943-1945
Atom Splitting /Atomzertrümmerung: Austrian Manhattan Project Scientist Otto Robert Frisch in Los Alamos, 1943-1945
By Kristina Poznan
The U.S. government’s World War II Manhattan Project benefitted from the work of several scientists born in Austria-Hungary, from physicists to chemists to mathematicians. Elizabeth Rona, Leó Szilárd, Edward Teller, John von Neumann, and Eugene Wigner were all from Budapest, George Placzek from Brno, and Stanislaw Ulam from Lviv. Among those born in Vienna were Victor F. Weisskopf and, most significantly for our purposes, Otto Robert Frisch.
Frisch arrived in the United States to work on “Project Y” in Los Alamos in1943 as part of “British Mission” cohort of scientists (Frisch had hurriedly been made a British citizen to participate). Frisch’s scientific work had already taken him from Vienna to Germany, Denmark, and England before the United States, including the laboratory of his renowned aunt, Lise Meitner, with whom he theorized the fission of uranium. Although Frisch returned to Europe in 1946 after the war, his three years in New Mexico are indicative of a wide contribution of Austro-Hungarian scientific training to Allied victory in World War II.