Charles Louis Critchfield
Born in 1910, Charles Critchfield received his M.A. and Ph. D. degrees from Washington D.C.'s George Washington University, where he studied under Edward Teller and George Gamow. After graduation he enjoyed stints at Princeton and Harvard before returning to Washington as a fellow at the Carnegie Institute.
In December 1942, J. Robert Oppenheimer and Teller approached Critchfield about joining to the weapons project getting underway at Los Alamos. In his first year at Los Alamos, "Critch" became the leader of the Target, Projectile, and Source Group, E-4, where he directed research on the design of gun targets, projectiles, sabots, strippers, and modulated initiators.
By mid-1944, it had become apparent that plutonium would not be suitable for use in a gun assembly weapon. In response, Critchfield left the gun program to work on initiators for the implosion effort. By August 1945, both bomb types were ready for use against Japan.
After the war, Critchfield returned briefly to George Washington University to teach physics. In 1947 he accepted a professorship in physics at the University of Minnesota. He took a leave of absence during the 1952-53 academic year, returning to Los Alamos to work on the hydrogen bomb.
Critchfield left Minnesota in 1955 to become the director of research for the Convair Division of General Dynamics. In 1960, he became associate division leader for research at the Whitaker Corporation in California, where he worked on early stealth technology. He held that position briefly before returning to Los Alamos, where he spent the rest of his career and a member of the Theoretical Division. Charles Critchfield died on 12 February 1994 at his home in Los Alamos.