The Manhattan Project's Secret Weapon: Dr. Wilhelm
Ames Public Library Auditorium
Free and open to the public
Presented by Teresa Wilhelm Waldof, author of The Boy from Pumptown: The Story of the Scientist Who Solved the Manhattan Project's Uranium Problem
Once the United States declared war against Japan and Germany after the December 1941 Pearl Harbor attacks, one thing became abundantly clear: the atomic bomb project would need to move forward at a breakneck pace. For the project to succeed, millions of pounds of purified uranium were needed, but the metal did not exist in those quantities. Since uranium’s discovery more than 150 years earlier, no one had successfully purified it. Dr. Harley Wilhelm, a chemist at Iowa State, was recruited to work on this problem. In September 1942, Wilhelm went to Chicago carrying a secret cargo: the world’s first ingot of purified uranium. The man who grew up as a southern Iowa sharecropper’s son was an unlikely character to change world history. His life, from country “bumpkin” to prolific inventor and Manhattan Project scientist, is an untold story, one which enabled the United States to win the war.
The 2018 Lecture Series is presented in partnership with Ames Public Library.