Raemer Edgar Schreiber (November 11, 1910 – December 24, 1998) was an American physicist from McMinnville, Oregon who served Los Alamos National Laboratory during World War II, participating in the development of the atomic bomb. He saw the first one detonated in the Trinity nuclear test in July 1945, and prepared the Fat Man bomb that was used in the bombing of Nagasaki. After the war, he served at Los Alamos as a group leader, and was involved in the design of the hydrogen bomb. In 1955, he became the head of its Nuclear Rocket Propulsion (N) Division, which developed the first nuclear-powered rockets. He served as deputy director of the laboratory from 1972 until his retirement in 1974.
Raemer Edgar Schreiber was born in McMinnville, Oregon on November 11, 1910, the son of Bertha (née Raemer) and Michael Schreiber. He was educated at Masonville Grade School and McMinnville High School. In 1927 he entered Linfield College in McMinnville, where he majored in physics and mathematics, and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1931. He then earned his Master of Arts degree from the University of Oregon in 1932. He married Marguerite Elizabeth Doak, a Linfield College French major in 1933. They had two daughters, Paula and Sara.
Schreiber was a graduate assistant at Oregon State College from 1932 to 1935, when he became an instructor at Purdue University. He was awarded his Ph.D. from Purdue in 1941, writing a thesis on an "Investigation of Nuclear Reactions and Scattering Produced by Neutrons". For his thesis, he constructed a neutron generator, and originally intended to discuss the possibilities of studying neutron diffraction in crystals, but this really only became possible with the development of nuclear reactors that produced large quantities of high energy neutrons. After the discovery of nuclear fission in 1939, he became interested in the phenomenon, and re-oriented his thesis to the study of neutrons emitted by fission.
From 1942 to 1943, Schreiber was a researcher with the Purdue Research Foundation. He participated in early work for the Manhattan Project there using the university's cyclotron. In 1943, he joined the Los Alamos Laboratory, and moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico with his wife and 16-month-old daughter. At Los Alamos, he worked on the Water Boiler, an aqueous homogeneous reactor. The Water Boiler group was headed by Donald W. Kerst from the University of Illinois, and consisted mainly of people from Purdue who had been working on calculations for Edward Teller's thermonuclear "Super" bomb. The group designed and built the Water Boiler, which commenced operation in May 1944. It was intended as a laboratory instrument to test critical mass calculations and the effect of various tamper materials. It was the first reactor to use enriched uranium as a fuel, and the first to use liquid fuel in the form of soluble uranium sulfate dissolved in water.
Schreiber worked on improved reactor designs until April 1945, when he was transferred to Robert Bacher's Gadget (G) Division as a member of the pit assembly team for the Trinity nuclear test. He observed the explosion from the Base Camp on July 16. Nine days later, Lieutenant Colonel Peer de Silva, the official courier, and Schreiber collected another plutonium pit, which Schreiber carried in a magnesium case. They took it to Kirtland Army Air Field, where they boarded a C-54 transport plane on July 26. Two days later, they arrived on the Pacific island of Tinian, where Schreiber helped assemble the Fat Man bomb that was used in the bombing of Nagasaki on August 9. Comparing it with the firebombing of Tokyo by B-29 bombers that killed 100,000 people in one night in March 1945, Schreiber noted that:
Just the fact you could do the same thing with one airplane and one bomb proved the efficiency, but it didn’t change the effect very much. But the firebombing, the saturation bombing of the B-29s, was not bringing Japan to its knees, and the shock effect of one airplane being able to wipe out a city, I think, is what finally convinced the Japanese military they had to give up.
After the war, Schreiber remained at Los Alamos, where he became a group leader in the Weapon (W) Division. His first assignment was to ready bombs for the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific. During the preparations, he witnessed the accident in which Louis Slotin was exposed to a fatal dose of neutron radiation when a screwdriver Slotin was using during a criticality experiment with one of the plutonium pits for Operation Crossroads slipped and the core went critical. Slotin would die from radiation poisoning nine days later but his quick reaction saved the lives of Schreiber and the others in the room (see also: demon core). Schreiber became an exponent of remote handling of dangerous substances, and designed remote-control machines to perform such experiments with all personnel at a quarter-mile distance.
He went on to lead the pit teams on Bikini Atoll in June and July 1946.
Schreiber became the associate leader of W Division in 1947, and then the head of the division in 1951. During this time, W Division worked on the development of the hydrogen bomb. He was once again in charge of the pit crew for the Ivy Mike nuclear test on Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific, the first test of a thermonuclear device. Even the veteran Schreiber was impressed by the 10-megaton-of-TNT (42 PJ) explosion. "It really filled up the sky," he recalled, "It was awesome. It just went on and on."
In 1955, Schreiber became the head of the Nuclear Rocket Propulsion (N) Division, which was responsible for Project Rover and NERVA. N Division developed nuclear rocket engines required for deep space exploration. He oversaw the first successful test of a nuclear rocket engine in 1959, In this capacity, he greeted President John F. Kennedy during the president's visit to Los Alamos in 1962. That year, he became Technical Associate Director, with responsibility for the entire nuclear rocket propulsion program. He became Deputy Director of Los Alamos in 1972, and served as a member of the United States Air Force Scientific Advisory Board and NASA's Advisory Committee on Nuclear Systems.
Schreiber retired in 1974, but remained as a consultant until 1995. He served as a member of the Laboratory's History Advisory Council in the late 1980s, and assisted in the publication of Critical Assembly: A Technical History of Los Alamos during the Oppenheimer Years, 1943-1945 (1993). He also helped the Human Studies Project Team by reviewing its history of medical studies at the Laboratory.
Schreiber and Marguerite bought a property at Pajarito Village in the Española Valley in the late 1940s, where they built an adobe home on the weekends. They lived there from 1955 until 1972, when they returned to Los Alamos. He died at his home there on December 24, 1998. He was survived by his wife Marguerite, daughters Paula and Sara, and his sister Anna. The Laboratory's Advanced Nuclear Technology Group (NIS-6) named its conference room the Raemer E. Schreiber Room in his honor.
- ^ ab"Raemer Schreiber". Atomic Heritage Foundation. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- ^ ab"The McGinnis and Raemer families"(PDF). Barbara Raemer. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- ^ abc"Oral history interview with Raemer Edgar Schreiber". American Institute of Physics - Niels Bohr Library and Archive. February 13, 1976. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- ^ ab"Marguerite Elizabeth Doak Schreiber". Los Alamos Monitor. February 29, 2008. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- ^ abcde"Raemer Edgar Schreiber - Honorary Degree Recipient - Doctor of Science, Purdue University 1964". Purdue University. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- ^"Investigation of Nuclear Reactions and Scattering Produced by Neutrons". The Smithsonian/NASA Astrophysics Data System. Bibcode:1941PhDT........22S. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- ^ abcdef"Raemer Schreiber". Staff Biographies. Los Alamos National Laboratory. Archived from the original on January 3, 2013. Retrieved November 16, 2008.
- ^ abcdPace, Eric (December 31, 1998). "R.E. Schreiber, 88, Nuclear Bomb Physicist". The New York Times. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- ^ abcdCalloway, Larry (July 16, 1995). "Nuclear Naiveté"(PDF). Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
- ^Calloway, Larry (July 1995). "Nuclear Naiveté"(PDF). Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
- Debus, Allen G. (1968). World Who's who in Science: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Scientists from Antiquity to the Present. Chicago: Marquis-Who's Who. ISBN 978-0-8379-1001-7. OCLC 451839.
- Hoddeson, Lillian; Henriksen, Paul W.; Meade, Roger A.; Westfall, Catherine L. (1993). Critical Assembly: A Technical History of Los Alamos During the Oppenheimer Years, 1943–1945. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-44132-3. OCLC 26764320.
It is hard for me to imagine some future day when that day 67 years past will cease to captivate human imagination.
To all of the human beings whose fates were altered that day; in other words, to all of us: wherever we go, whatever we do, let us go and do it seeking peace, with the understanding that sometimes the world must be wrested back from those who would hold it in ignorance and malice.
(...Louis opens his eyes and smiles at the audience, raising his arms out of the ice troughs like a prophet.)
SLOTIN: The time is come.
DREAMER A: It's June the 6th, 1944.
DREAMER B: I'm in an amphibious landing craft headed straight for Omaha Beach.
DREAMER A: Normandy.
SLOTIN: Time is come.
DREAMER A: As I look around at the other soldiers puking up their last rations--
DREAMER B: As the LC bounces across the channel's heavy chop.
SLOTIN: I realize a strange thing.
BLACK SOLDIER: I am a black man.
SLOTIN: I have always been black.
DREAMER A: From Arkansas maybe, or the Carolinas.
DREAMER B: I am the only Negro on this boat.
BLACK SOLDIER: Hell, I'm the only Negro in this entire invasion.
DREAMER A: And even with the shells lofting columns of sea and spray all around us.
DREAMER B: And even with the shore looming closer and closer, and the thrill and terror pumping so thick I can taste it.
DREAMER A: I have to laugh.
SLOTIN: Because I realize there's been some mistake:
BLACK SOLDIER: This ain't my war.
DREAMER A: The boat hits the beach.
DREAMER B: We can hear the bullets clanging on the other side of the steel landing ramp.
DREAMER A: And then down it drops.
DREAMER B: And we can see machine gun fire churning the water in front of us to a wall of froth.
BLACK SOLDIER: Ain't nobody stepping into that. But when I turn round, the Navy skipper's pointing his sidearm Colt at us. So what do we do but go? White boys falling all around me. Some cut to pieces by the guns, some just drowning under their gear. But I move forward. Kraut bullets just won't hit me. Ain't my war.
I got me a Browning automatic rifle and I start pumping her good into anything that moves up on them cliffs. And then I'm up the cliffs. I leave all them white boys behind dying and such down on the beach. Ain't got time for that. Ain't my war. Every lousy Kraut blue-eyed bastard I find, I just jerk back on my B.A.R. and pump some lead in his face.
"Damn, Fritz. Sorry now, ain't ya? Should a thought a that sooner, hunh? Now get down in hell where you belong.
DREAMER A: And then I'm running.
DREAMER B: Running ahead.
BLACK SOLDIER: I ain't got time for this. This ain't my war.
SLOTIN: I run past Paris.
BLACK SOLDIER: Sorry, Ladies. Much as I'd like, ain't no time for that now.
DREAMER A: I run forward.
SLOTIN: Past the Maginot line.
DREAMER B: Into Germany.
BLACK SOLDIER: And I kill Krauts when I see 'em, but ain't wasting no time neither.
DREAMER A: I'm running.
DREAMER B: Past Berlin.
SLOTIN: Past Hitler.
BLACK SOLDIER: Ain't got time for that lousy little shit-ass now. Let 'em eat his own lead.
DREAMER A: I'm running.
DREAMER B: I'm into Poland now.
DREAMER A: And then I'm there.
BLACK SOLDIER: And damned if it don't look just like "Gone With The Wind". Big ol' plantation with big ol' pearly white columns. And who you think's sitting up on that porch, just a-sipping on a julep but the Doctor himself.
DREAMER A: Kill him.
DREAMER B: Kill him now.
BLACK SOLDIER: Yeah. Now we got somebody worth killing. I stroll on up them front steps drop my BAR from my shoulder and get set to shoot, only the gun ain't a gun. Just a damned stick.
DREAMER A: A yardstick.
DREAMER B: A slide rule the size of a yardstick.
DREAMER A: It's hard to say.
DREAMER B: It’s all pretty hard to say.
SLOTIN: At any rate, Mengele smiles. He gets up, and from his vest pocket draws a very small knife.
DREAMER A: A scalpel--
BLACK SOLDIER: And cuts me open.
SLOTIN: To find the foolish Canadian Jew inside.
BLACK SOLDIER & SLOTIN (together): Louis.
BLACK SOLDIER: And right then and there it dawns on me--
DREAMER A & DREAMER B (together): We got trouble.
BLACK SOLDIER & SLOTIN (in darkness): Louis... we need to talk, Louis.
From Louis Slotin Sonata