George B. Kistiakowsky
George B. Kistiakowsky was born in Kiev, Russia, November 18, 1900. He attended school in Moscow from 1905 to 1917, but completed his final year in Kiev. Revolution broke-out in Moscow that year, and soon consumed the entire country. Kistiakowsky fought for the monarchy during the Russian Civil War and fled to Germany when the "White" Russian forces were defeated by Lenin's Bolsheviks.
In 1921, Kistiakowsky began studying at the University of Berlin. He completed work for his Ph.D. in physical chemistry in 1925, and won a fellowship from the International Education Board in 1926 that brought him to New York. When his fellowship ran out in 1928, he took a job as an assistant professor at Princeton University. Two years later, Kistiakowsky accepted an assistant professorship as Harvard. He remained affiliated with that institution for the rest of his career.
During the 1930s, Kistiakowsky began exploring potential military applications for his research in explosives. This brought him in contact with corporate and government officials, which eventually led to his appointment as head of the National Defense Research Committee's (NDRC) Explosives Division in 1942. The NDRC chairman, Vannevar Bush, had called for the army corps of engineers to participate in the quest to build an atomic bomb, thus leading to the establishment of the Manhattan Engineering District (MED). By 1944, the MED had completed construction of the laboratory at Los Alamos and was searching for talented scientists to work on the project. Kistiakowsky, endorsed by Hans Bethe and Edwin McMillan, was recruited by the lab to work on the implosion effort. When the lab was reorganized in July 1944, Kistiakowsky was promoted to lead X (Explosives) Division, which was charged with designing the implosion bomb's explosive mechanisms and devising a method to detonate them. Under great pressure, Kistiakowsky worked closely with G (Gadget) Division Leader Robert Bacher to produce the "Fat Man" bomb, which was successfully tested a year later, on July 16, 1945.
After the war, Kistiakowsky resumed his teaching career at Harvard. During the Eisenhower presidency, he was appointed to serve on the President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC). In 1959, he succeeded James Killian as Special Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. Kistiakowsky kept a diary during his years as Eisenhower's special assistant and published it under the title, A Scientist at the White House.
Increasingly, Kistiakowsky was becoming disillusioned with the Cold War politics of the 1960s. He objected to the Vietnam War, and broke his ties as a consultant with federal agencies such as the defense department. He continued teaching at Harvard, but dedicated much of his time to organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences and the Council for a Livable World. He retired from Harvard in 1972, but retained the title professor emeritus for the remainder of his life. George Kistiakowsky died on December 7, 1982.