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George Braxton Pegram

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Title: George Braxton Pegram  
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George Braxton Pegram

George Braxton Pegram (October 24, 1876 – August 12, 1958) was an American physicist who played a key role in the technical administration of the Manhattan Project.


Pegram was born in Trinity, North Carolina, and was one of the five children of William Howell Pegram. He was also professor of chemistry at Trinity College (now Duke University), and Emma, daughter of Rev. Braxton Craven, the college's president. His upbringing in the academic atmosphere of the campus left him with an appetite for careful methodical work and an inherent diplomacy.[1]

Pegram graduated from Trinity in 1895 and taught high school before becoming a teaching assistant in physics at Columbia University in 1900. He was to spend the rest of his working life at Columbia, taking his doctorate in 1903 and becoming a full professor in 1918. His administrative career began as early as 1913 when he became the department's executive officer. By 1918, he was Dean of the Faculty of Applied Sciences but he resigned in 1930 to relaunch his research activities, performing many meticulous measurements on the properties of neutrons with John R. Dunning.[1]

Returning to administration in 1936, as Dean and Chair of Columbia's physics department, Pegram was instrumental in bringing Enrico Fermi to the US to escape the Fascist regime of his native Italy. In 1940 he brokered a meeting between Fermi and the US Navy at which the prospect of an atomic bomb was raised with the military for the first time.[1]

Following Marcus Oliphant's mission to the USA in August 1941 to alert the Americans to the feasibility of an atomic bomb, in autumn 1941 Pegram and Urey led a diplomatic mission to the United Kingdom to establish co-operation on development of the atomic bomb.[1] Pegram and his colleague Harold C. Urey soon found themselves on Vannevar Bush's S-1 Uranium Committee coordinating all technical research. Thereafter Columbia physics department was home to many of the key technologies required for the bomb project.

Pegram died in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.[1][2]



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