Overshadowed by the contributions of Charles Kettering, Loudonville native Robert Bacher was considered one of America's most brilliant minds, who eventually helped bring an end to World War II.
Robert Fox Bacher was born in Loudonville in 1905, but moved away with his family at a young age. He taught physics at Cornell before he was recruited by Robert Oppenheimer to head the physics division of a top secret program during the war.
The program was known as the Manhattan Project; the United States' effort to build the first atomic bomb. Bacher relocated to the new laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico. He was first in charge of the P Division (codename for Physics) and later leading the G (Gadget) Division.
The Manhattan Project was originally intended to be a military laboratory, but Bacher forced Oppenheimer to agree to keep it a civilian lab with a military contract. Bacher was the one who physically assembled the core of the first bomb, in an old farmhouse of all places, and drove it to the test site in the back seat of his car.
After the war he became the Director of Cornell's Laboratory of Nuclear Studies, before chairing the Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy division of California Institute of Technology from 1949 to 1962, and later serving as Vice President and Provost.
In 1946 he was appointed to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. In 1953 Bacher was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and in 1958 became a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee.
Bacher had mixed feelings over his role in developing the bomb, but was a staunch supporter of Oppenheimer when he was accused of communist ties in the 1950s.
Bacher passed away in 2004, at the age of 99, in California.
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