Coincidences amuse us

Researching Argonne National Laboratory, from which sprang most of the key reactor designs after WWII and into the early 1950s, the following 1992 interview with a Manhattan Project physicist, Albert Wattenberg, piqued my interest:

Some people in the U.S. Army wanted to set the National Laboratory up at Baraboo, Wisconsin, because the property was available. Fermi said that he wouldn’t go there, if they wanted him. So when they discussed it with Fermi, Compton and whoever else was involved, they would not take on the contract; they would not be involved if it were very remote from Chicago. So Fermi is responsible for the Argonne National Laboratory being set up in the vicinity of Chicago.

Wattenberg, Albert. 1992. Dr. Albert Wattenberg, Argonne National Laboratory History Project, Interviewed Apr. 24, 1992. “Dr. Albert Wattenberg Interview; April 24, 1992,” Box 1 of 1, Historical Materials Relating to Albert Wattenberg, RG 326, NARA-GL, Chicago, Illinois.

What aroused my interest was mention of Baraboo, Wisconsin. I’d never heard of it before and have never seen it mentioned in the thousands of pages I’ve read about Argonne. Looking it up today in Wikipedia, I discover that, yes, the Badger Army Ammunition Plant was in Baraboo, so presumably the option was available to make use of that site after demobilization in 1946. Since no one else mentioned Baraboo amongst all my research, and since it’s dull reading about where a laboratory might have been built but wasn’t, I forgot all about Baraboo.

Until recently. I’m now, rather unexpectedly, vitally interested in the world’s fifteen species of Cranes, big, reclusive birds on every continent except South America. And the world of Cranes revolves around the International Crane Foundation, established in the early 1970s and the centre of global knowledge about all fifteen species. And where is the ICF headquartered, a place I’m now keen to visit? Yes, you guessed it: Baraboo, Wisconsin.

I’m sure this coincidental morsel bores you stiff. All I can say is: wait until your brain is overflowing with libraries of research material. Then you too will chuckle at meaningless intersections of data, the odd little quirks of knowledge.