The U.S. government’s Manhattan Project, which led to the development of the first nuclear weapons, was a massive but highly secretive World War II undertaking that involved thousands of scientists and engineers at dozens of sites across the nation. They included a few with Rolla connections, most notably Thomas G. Day, a professor of organic chemistry at S&T in the 1940s, who served as an “administrative assistant to one of the scientific divisions” and “gave himself wholeheartedly to the work and made a real contribution to it,” wrote Harold C. Urey, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist who played a significant role in the development of the atom bomb. Another Rolla professor, Harold Q. Fuller, worked on the Manhattan Project during 1944-1945 before joining the S&T physics faculty, where he served as department chair 1948-1970. According to the Atomic Heritage Foundation, two Rolla graduates also worked on the Manhattan Project. Max L. Custis, a 1944 chemical engineering graduate, and Sam Tarson, who earned a mechanical engineering degree in 1947, both worked in a “Special Engineer Detachment” at the K-25 Plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

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