I-Juliana Christy

Achieving the Rare

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Robert F Christy was a legendary physicist, one of the key players in some of the most dramatic events of the 20th century. He was a student of Oppenheimer, who called him “one of the best in the world.” He was a crucial member of Fermi's team when they first unleashed the unheard-of energies of nuclear power, creating the world's first nuclear reactor on December 2, 1942. On the Manhattan Project he was the key physicist in the successful test of the world's first atomic bomb, the “Christy Gadget”, at Alamogordo on July 16, 1945. Almost immediately he turned his talents to promoting the peaceful uses of atomic energy. He successfully opposed atmospheric testing of atomic bombs and fought nuclear proliferation, a campaign that eventually led to the SALT talks with the Soviet Union. His favorite subject was astrophysics where he made fundamental contributions to the understanding of Cepheids, variable stars that are crucial distance indicators in the universe.
Robert was equally fascinating as a man. In his mid-50's he became irresistably attracted to an astrophysicist, but they were a continent and a generation apart. Near his 60's they started a happy and fulfilling life together. He remained vigorous both mentally and physically into his 90's: he was still galloping his horse at age 93.
Robert's story is one of overcoming obstacles, of hope, and of fulfillment.
Contents:His ChildhoodThe Formative UBC YearsExciting Graduate Years with OppenheimerThe First Marriage, to Dagmar von LievenThe Very First Nuclear ReactorDesigning the First Atomic BombOpposing Nuclear Weapons ProliferationBecoming Oppenheimer's Successor at CaltechContributions to Physics at CaltechPioneering Work in Astrophysics: Variable StarsAs Provost: Achieving His Dreams for CaltechThe Second Marriage, to I-Julianna SackmannDaughters Late in LifeInterim President of CaltechLater Years — Teaching and ResearchRadiation Dosimetry in Hiroshima and NagasakiThe Spring Valley Ranch: Fulfilling a DreamRobert's Health — Struggles and SuccessesAn Innate Grace
Readership: For interested academics as well as the general public.
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642 printed pages
Original publication


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