Session H13: History of Physics I

10:45 AM–12:21 PM, Sunday, May 1, 2011
Room: Royal EF

Sponsoring Unit: FHP
Chair: David Cassidy, Hofstra University

Abstract ID: BAPS.2011.APR.H13.4

Abstract: H13.00004 : Correcting a Persistent Manhattan Project Statistical Error

11:57 AM–12:21 PM

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  Cameron Reed
    (Alma College)

In his 1987 autobiography, Major-General Kenneth Nichols, who served as the Manhattan Project's ``District Engineer'' under General Leslie Groves, related that when the Clinton Engineer Works at Oak Ridge, TN, was completed it was consuming nearly one-seventh ($\sim $ 14{\%}) of the electric power being generated in the United States. This statement has been reiterated in several editions of a Department of Energy publication on the Manhattan Project. This remarkable claim has been checked against power generation and consumption figures available in Manhattan Engineer District documents, Tennessee Valley Authority records, and historical editions of the Statistical Abstract of the United States. The correct figure is closer to 0.9{\%} of national generation. A speculation will be made as to the origin of Nichols' erroneous one-seventh figure.

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