In 1945, as decisions were made about the use of the atomic bomb, U.S. Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson said that the men involved were not discussing just another weapon but “a new relationship of man to the universe.”
Percival Keith led the engineering and development of the K-25 plant that separated fissionable uranium isotope U-235 from U-238. His work in the industrial design and implementation of this facility, in what was at the time the largest building in the world under one roof, established a new model of large-scale interaction between scientists and engineers.
After the war this complex became a part of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the nation’s premier laboratory devoted to the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the development of spinoff technologies, from the synthesis of new alloys and ceramics to tool and engine design. Oak Ridge has been a leader in nuclear medicine with its transformation of radioisotopes into agents for diagnosing and treating diseases. Radioactive isotopes are used, for example, to detect faulty heart muscle, reduce inflammation in arthritis patients, and destroy cancerous human cells.
The Manhattan Project certainly achieved far more than a bomb, and Percival Keith’s accomplishments were indeed, as his classmates predicted, far-reaching.
Physics professor Don Salisbury assisted in preparing this information.
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