Max Roy

Max Roy

Max Roy

Max Roy's Inspiration

  • Max Roy's Inspiration

    Max Roy's Inspiration

    Max Roy lived in Master Cottage Number One for nearly fifty years. Hanford chemist Oswald Greager recalls how Roy inspired him and his colleagues on an important project.

    Narrator: Max Roy lived in this house longer than anyone else. He was a chemist who worked with the Manhattan Project and became director of the Weapons Division. During the Cold War, Max worked in Hanford, Washington and Oak Ridge, Tennessee to improve the efficiency of nuclear weapons. Roy inspired his colleagues by taking a bit of a security risk, as Hanford’s Oswald Greager remembers.

    Oswald Greager: It was around 1951, or something like that, that the Los Alamos people were quite certain that if they could get the impurity level—contamination levels of other things that were in the plutonium—down to a lower figure than what we were sending them, that they could improve the yield, the yield being the amount of bang you get.

    Max Roy, he was the head man on their bomb design work. He got the idea that he would call in some people from Oak Ridge who were producing the uranium-235, and some of us from up here.

    He apparently decided that the best way to get our cooperation in all that effort to improve the purity would be to tell us all about the bomb. He gave us the code names for the different designs. He told us how many had been made, and he told us what the yields were and what they hoped they would get to. None of us wrote anything down. I had been in that business up to that time about eight years, and I had been kept completely away from that kind of knowledge.

    It had his desired effect. The people from Oak Ridge and we both went home, and busted our rear ends to do a better job of making pure stuff. We were given to understand that the yields did go up, and they were quite pleased with all that.


Quick Fact:
Max Roy lived in Master Cottage Number One for nearly 50 years. A chemist, he served as director of the Weapons Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory.