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Calutron Girls: 1944

Calutron Girls: 1944

Clinton Engineer Works, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 1944. "Calutron Girls -- Gladys Owens (foreground), one of the workers monitoring 'Calutron' mass spectrometers at the Y-12 uranium isotope separation and enrichment plant. Like many of these women, she did not realize the significance of her work in the development of the first atomic bomb until long after the war had ended." Photo by Ed Westcott, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. View full size.


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One Fleeting Look Was Enough

Before I read anything I immediately knew instinctively what year it was from Gladys' dress. 1944 - the war years and my birth year. Beginning with my own mom I would be hard pressed to identify any one of hundreds of thousands of those beautiful women by their dress. Also, kind of reminds me of the size of the radios in my Vietnam-era Destroyer's radio shack some 20 years later.

My Granny

Worked there during the War! I was hoping she would be in the picture somewhere.
They were basically told nothing about what they were doing, except to observe certain readings on the dials and make sure they stayed within certain parameters. Most, if not all, of them had no inkling as to what they were doing or why they were doing it. However, the gravity and importance of their task changed not only the outcome of World War II, but the world itself!

Glad they were there

Now, of course, the whole operation could be packaged into a smart phone app. It would run in the background and hardly require any processing power.

2500 girls 2500

There were 2500 caultron girls running an entire factory for producing enriched uranium. The name comes from University of California Cyclotron, where the process was developed by Earnest Lawrence. He wanted the factory closer to Berkeley, but lost out to Oak Ridge. Amazing complete story, read it at Wikipedia:

Chairs provided for operator convenience

But not for operator comfort. We can't have anyone getting drowsy after lunch; there's a war on.

Maybe these women weren't given the Big Picture, but the scope of this room and its equipment reminded them of their involvement in a Very Big Deal.

Still with us!

Lovely young Gladys here is, it appears, still with us.

Cool stuff!

I love seeing these pics of the atomic projects. One of these days I need to get down and see Oak Ridge.

Social Distancing Before it was Cool!

These ladies were assigned seats that were practicing social distancing, some 75 tears before it was the standard thing to do!

Atomic Structure

Even the chairs had orbits.

Living History

A visit to Oak Ridge is not complete without going to the American Museum of Science and Energy. Back in early 1990s, my family, including two young daughters, made an impromptu trip to Oak Ridge, and was lucky enough to have our tour led by a docent who was one of the "Calutron Girls." She was fascinating, and, thinking back on that encounter, I cannot help but indulge in playing a bit of "if/then" counterfactuals. The chance meeting is a lesson in the real, yet often hidden, significance of the people who cross our paths.

The book, The Girls of the Atomic City, written in layman's language, is a worthy read, and the author effectively conveys the highly partitioned nature of the jobs and living conditions that existed at Oak Ridge in order to preserve secrecy.

Unsung women are heroes!

Or heroines if you prefer. This is a never before suspected part of the war and nuclear effort to me!

While the job they are doing may be not much different from a switchboard operator. I'm sure it required vigilance and attention.

Even peaceniks like me admire that they got the job done!
Now I'd likel to see a closeup of the control panels!

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