Eyewitness To The Bomb

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Dr. L. Worth Seagondollar

Eyewitness To The Bomb

Listeners mesmerized by Seagondollar's firsthand account of history


Karen Williams, Professor of Physics at East Central University in Ada, OK, 2008 Seagondollar Service Award Recipient

Worth Seagondollar speaks at the closing banquet of the 2004 Sigma Pi Sigma Congress in Albuquerque, NM. Photo by Tracy Nolis-Schwab.I first met Worth Seagondollar during the 2004 Sigma Pi Sigma Congress in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He talked to a crowd of about 200 people at the Trinity Site where the first atomic bomb was tested, recounting what it was like to watch, as he did, the detonation of the first atomic bomb on the very ground we stood upon. It was difficult to get close enough to hear him well at that time because there were so many people.

What sticks out in my mind is how utterly silent everyone was later, at a banquet where Worth described his experience working on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos and how he had pounded plutonium back into its casing. Hemispherical shells of the material had fallen on his watch, denting one side of one of the shell’s silver casings. He had to hammer it back into shape. He was alone during that shift and basically figured he had no choice but to risk serious damage to his body to put it back together.

I have been to hundreds of banquets and always hear some background noise, from chatter and whispers to the clink of ice in glasses and the rattle of silverware. But no one among the 400-plus attending the banquet made a SOUND as he talked that evening. I was seated at the back edge and, had I dropped a pin, many would have heard it that night. Everyone was amazed by his story. It was a magical night.

I was thrilled to receive the Worth Seagondollar Service Award, given in his honor for exemplary service to the Society of Physics Students and Sigma Pi Sigma, at the 2008 Congress. But I do not feel I am worthy of such an accolade. I was much more thrilled to present the award to my dear friend Steve Feller (see his story about fundraising on p. 18) at the 2012 Congress last November.

I am very saddened by Worth Seagondollar’s passing. I wish more students could have heard in person his inspiring and entertaining firsthand accounts of the events surrounding the Manhattan Project.

See the full story of the dropped plutonium, as told by Dr. Seagondollar on the following page.

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