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Alvin Weinberg Papers

Identifier: MPA-0332

This collection contains personal papers, correspondence, multimedia, laboratory notebooks, manuscripts, typescripts, articles, and memorabilia from the life of Alvin Weinberg. It is divided into eight series: Series I: Metallurgical Lab Years; Series II: Oak Ridge National Lab Government Service; Series III: Office of Energy Research and Development; Series IV: Instititute for Energy Analysis years; Series V:Oak Ridge Associated Universities; Series VI:Office Collection; Series VII:Memorabilia, and Series VIII: Miscellaneous Files.


  • 1995-2006


The material in this collection is mostly in English, with some items in Russian or German.

Conditions Governing Access

The Modern Political Archives are housed at the Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy. Researchers interested in consulting the MPA collections are advised to contact the Modern Political Archives .

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Modern Political Archives .


82 Linear Feet


This collection documents the life and work Alvin M. Weinberg, a nuclear physicist and director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) from 1955 to 1974. This collection contains papers relating to Weinberg's work with the Manhattan Project's Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, ORNL, the Office of Energy research and development, Oak Ridge Associated Universities, and other scientific endeavors. It contains correspondence, multimedia, laboratory notebooks, manuscripts, typescripts, articles, and memorabilia.

Biographical/Historical Note

Alvin Martin Weinberg (1915-2006) was a pioneering nuclear physicist who was a laboratory research scientist and administrator in later years. A native of Chicago, he began his work in theoretical physics at the Metallurgical Lab at the University of Chicago and was part of the team that created the first nuclear chain reaction, known as the Chicago Pile, underneath the football stadium at the university. These experiments became part of the Manhattan Project, a code name used by the U.S. Government to describe secret efforts to build an atomic bomb before the Germans.

During the war Weinberg relocated to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he worked at Clinton Laboratory, now Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Weinberg worked in ORNL's Physics Division until he was named director of the laboratory in 1955, where he remained until 1974. While at ORNL Alvin Weinberg pioneered research on numerous reactors, most notably the graphite reactor, pressurized-water reactor and molten salt reactor.

After being part of ORNL for nearly 26 years, he founded and became director of Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU) Institute for Energy Analysis (IEA) in 1974, which examined energy policy framed in economic and social perspectives as well as in consideration of the latest technology. He also served one year in the Office of Energy Research and Development (OERD). His knowledge of energy issues was immense and he held important roles in the development of the nuclear power industry and in addressing the nation's energy crisis during the 1970s.

Weinberg retired from the IEA in 1985 but continued to promote nuclear energy. He was named an ORAU Distinguished Fellow by the ORAU Board of Directors. In 1992, he was named chairman of the International Friendship Bell Committee, a project that commemorates Oak Ridge's role in ending World War II and expresses hope for peace, friendship and understanding among the people of the world.

In addition to these accomplishments, Weinberg was a prolific writer and communicator. He coined such phrases as "big science," "technological fixer" and "Faustian bargain." He wrote nine books, published over 500 scientific articles, and gave numerous speeches and presentations. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society, and was also appointed to the President's Science Advisory Committee. This rare honor placed him in the center of many policy debates. Over his lifetime he received numerous awards: The Ford Family's Atoms-for-Peace Award, The Enrico Fermi Award, The Atomic Energy Commission's highest award, The New York Academy of Sciences Award, The Harvey Prize, The University of Chicago's Alumni Medal, and twenty-eight honorary degrees. Weinberg died Oct. 18, 2006 at his home in Oak Ridge. He was 91.

Processing Information Note

This collection was processed by Yvonne M. Socha.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA