Still fun

The invigorating personal touches one finds in archives. Arthur Compton was pivotal to the Manhattan Project during WWII, leading Met Lab, which developed the first reactors and bomb materiels factories. After the war, he stepped back into academia at Washington University. At the end of 1954 he had just retired as chancellor and was writing a book, Atomic Quest, that is a treasure trove for historians. In November, he received a letter from Norman Hilberry, Zinn’s deputy (a couple of years later, he would get the top job). He is aged 55, Compton is 62. Hilberry’s letter to Compton gives a hint of what it must have been like working for an impatient iconoclast like Zinn.

Hilberry letter to Compton

Dear A. H. … Things here move on in their usual scrambled, high pressure fashion. There is only one thing sure and that is that one will not die of monotony. In spite of its frustrations, however, it is still fun, and I still hope that it will prove worthwhile in other than a negative sense. With best wishes from Ann, I am, as ever, Norman Hilberry

Hilberry, Norman. 1954. Hilberry to Compton, Nov. 10, 1954. “Reading File, November 10, 1954,” Box 111, Laboratory Director’s Reading File, 1949-1957, RG 326. NARA-GL, Chicago, Illinois.