Wyoming’s Connection to the Manhattan Project
This nuclear physicist went on to be a team leader in the Manhattan Project, but later on helped to invent proton therapy which treats cancer.
Robert R Wilson was born in Frontier, Wyoming on March 4th, 1914. He passed away in January 2000 at his home in Ithaca, New York.
There are two main chapters in Wilson's life: before and after the bomb. Before the atom bomb fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki he was cutting his teeth trying to make a career in theoretical physics. At Berkley he had a conflict with his Noble Prize winner supervisor, Ernest Lawrence. He was fired twice for what seems to be trivial things. The folks at Berkley tried to get him back, but Wilson jumped ship and got a gig at Princeton. Throughout his early days Wilson and his team worked on how to separate the isotopes in uranium. That of course is what put him on the team for the Manhattan Project.
After the bomb fell, like Albert Einstein and many on the project, he was in dismay about what he helped create. It must have been like unlocking Pandora’s box and struggling to find hope among all the monsters.
Wilson and other scientists from the Manhattan Project went on to form the Association of Los Alamos Scientists (ALAS.) The ALAS wanted to make informed choices and help the peaceful use of nuclear power.
After the war, he went on to write "Radiological Use of Fast Protons” which was a keystone to proton therapy. Proton therapy is a radiation treatment for cancer that bombards specific areas to kill the cancer cells. This form of treatment ended in 2002.
Not only a man of science, Wilson was also a world renowned artist who made sculptures. Some of the sculptures can be seen at the labs he worked at. Wilson was a man who left his mark on science, medicine, and art.