Caltech Professor Who Helped Develop Atom Bomb Dies

Robert F. Christy, who participated in the Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb during World War II, died on Wednesday. He was 96.

Funeral services were pending Thursday for Robert F. Christy, who was instrumental in the development of the atomic bomb and held a variety of key administration posts during a nearly 40-year career at Caltech.

Christy died Wednesday at age 96 at his Pasadena home, according to Caltech.

Christy, a Canadian native who studied physics at UC Berkeley under physicist Robert Oppenheimer, was one of the first people recruited by Oppenheimer to participate in the Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb during World War II. Christy was an important figure in developing the bomb's trigger mechanism.

In 1946, Christy joined the Caltech faculty as a theoretical physics professor and remained at the Pasadena university until 1985.

Christy's high-profile positions at Caltech included a stint as acting president in 1977-78. He also served as its vice president and provost in 1970- 80 and as faculty chair in 1969-71.

At Caltech, he worked in nuclear physics, first with cosmic rays and later in astrophysics, investigating the mechanisms driving the pulsations in the brightness of stars to measure cosmic distances.

Christy was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1965, and two years later won Britain's Royal Astronomical Society's Eddington Medal for his work.

Christy's wartime experience led him to oppose the further development of nuclear weapons, and in the mid-1980s, he became a member of a National Research Council's Committee that studied the radiation effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

"Robert Christy was one of the founders of a very important area of astrophysical research," said B. Thomas Soifer, chair of Caltech's Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy and director of its Spitzer Science Center. "He was a major figure at Caltech in the post-war era.

"Bob was an outstanding theoretical physicist," Soifer said. "His contribution to scientific research, to public policy and his leadership helped in shaping what Caltech is today."


Read an interview of Robert F. Christy from the Caltech archives 

Ted Trentman October 05, 2012 at 04:36 PM
No comment.
RT October 05, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Smart man who also figured out how to live A LONG LIFE. R.I.P.
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