Origin of Argonne Laboratory

Origin of Argonne Laboratory

What name should the metallurgical laboratory give this new home? Some people suggest to use the name “Fermilab”, but this naming method is generally to commemorate the deceased, and Fermi is still alive, which is obviously not appropriate. In the end, the new home was named after a local town called “Agung”.

The government requisitioned some surrounding farmland for the laboratory. Argonne now covers an area of ​​4,100 acres. The workers planted about 1 million pine saplings. These saplings grew up to create a vast home for the growing number of fallow deer. Agung still looks like a military base, with office buildings like mobile homes everywhere. In the 1950s, some red brick buildings were built in the laboratory. These new houses are named without words, but with numbers. In 1951, Building No. 205 was completed. This two-story building later became the office building of the battery department of the Argonne National Laboratory.

Many scientists in Argonne take a shuttle bus from Chicago to the laboratory every day. The ticket is 35 cents. Because almost all laboratory personnel live in the urban area, the laboratory specially provides this shuttle service for them. Since many residents in the Hyde Park community work in Agung, some people call it “Little Agung.” The shuttle bus takes 90 minutes from the city to the laboratory, passing through many streets full of factories, warehouses and railway stations, and finally into an open farmland. Although the distance seems to be long, the driver is an amateur ventriloquist, and he will perform great tricks for everyone along the way. Once, when everyone got in the car, he acted as a passenger who was rushing over to the car and yelled from the crowd, which surprised everyone. However, more and more scientists left the city and chose to settle in emerging suburban towns such as Aurora, Naperville, and Downers Grove, so Agung later interrupted the shuttle service. These communities can be traced back to the 1830s, and they usually do not welcome new residents, so you should ask the leader of Agung to say hello before moving into these communities. In the end, most scientists were accepted by local residents, and some were warmly welcomed. Stephen Rolowski, the head of the chemical technology department at the time, fell into the latter case. He was honored as a “professor” by the “noble” residents of Naperville, and was regularly invited to join the local dignitaries to participate in breakfast club activities held in a downtown grocery store.

In 1951, Dieter Glenn received his doctorate. At that time, students with academic backgrounds like him had many choices after graduation. The American industry is carrying out basic research. He participated in an interview at Bell Labs under AT&T, and heard that General Electric, Ford Motor and General Motors-related positions are all hiring. Some universities are also hiring professors and basic researchers. However, Glenn has a soft spot for Argonne because he is already well-known in this laboratory, and he is also proud to work here. At that time, Argonne had become one of the world’s top research institutions. Experimentalists can get financial support from Washington at will, and they can also freely choose subjects of interest to conduct research. Glenn received the 1989 badge and moved into an office in Building 205.

At first, Glenn was assigned to the nuclear submarine construction team led by Captain Hyman Rickover. His task is to find a way to remove hafnium from zirconium. Uranium-zirconium alloy can be used as fuel for nuclear submarines. The system here is very strict, almost everything is top secret, because Agung’s primary function is to develop sensitive nuclear technology. Glenn felt the potential danger. All scientists must wear special yellow shoes and submit urine samples regularly. These two measures are to prevent radiation pollution. The office building is surrounded by a row of 2.4-meter-high fences, and the only entrance of the building has checkpoints. A red waste paper basket is placed in each office, and the label on it reads 4 capital letters: BURN (Burn after reading). The discarded confidential papers must be incinerated in this wastepaper basket. However, only specialized handlers have the right to burn these documents, and the 4 capital letters on the wastebasket are for them to see. However, there has been an exception at least once: a scientist misunderstood the label and burned the wastepaper basket, and as a result thick smoke drifted into the corridor.

More than 200 people work in Building 205. Most people are in their twenties and thirties. Female employees are mainly secretaries, and many employees are still single. At lunch, male employees gather to play a few rounds of Pinnacle cards. During the day, they form different coffee groups in the hallway. At the weekend, scientists will visit each other, and some people become lovers after getting acquainted with each other, and finally become husbands and wives. However, in general, regardless of the working conditions, Argonne’s work seems to be in order. Air-conditioning is installed only in rooms where air-conditioning is necessary. Therefore, in the humid summer, the water pipes under the ceiling will condense moisture, which will drip onto the scientists after it condenses into water droplets. Many scientists put protective plastic coats on their equipment, but they themselves often get wet. When a departmental meeting was held, the researchers were dizzy with heat and often dozed off.

Glenn didn’t think it was like Oak Ridge at all-the intensity of the two places was different. After all, the Second World War is over. If you put aside the danger and confidentiality projects underway, the Argonne National Laboratory seems ordinary. Now scientists are working nine to five. In 1956, Glenn and his wife moved to Downers Grove, a half-hour drive from Argonne, where it became the second “little Argonne.” One of their children complained: “We don’t think anyone will live in Downers Grove except for those who work in Argonne.”

Of course, Glenn also discovered the jealousy of his friends in college, because he had the opportunity to use rare advanced equipment. If a talented person chooses to develop in Argonne, it will be a wise move. This is exactly what Glenn is, he is the youngest senior scientist on the team and has his own research team.