Fascinating finds are down every aisle and around every corner of the Laboratory’s classified library, today called the National Security Research Center (NSRC). The NSRC preserves classified documents, films, photographs, and other materials from history’s greatest scientific minds, which today’s researchers rely on to fulfill the Lab’s national security mission. Meanwhile, the unclassified relics that are often discovered in the NSRC archives preserve the Lab’s rich history, which dates back to World War II and the start of the nuclear enterprise. Too numerous to list in their entirety, here are just a few of the historical finds preserved by the NSRC.
A spy’s notebook:
Oscar Seborer was confirmed by historians in 2019 as a fourth wartime spy at Los Alamos. He worked at the lab as part of the Army’s Special Engineer Detachment and witnessed the Trinity test. Little is known about Seborer, though clues are emerging. Lab historian Ellen McGehee happened to just recently come across the spy’s notebook among thousands of Manhattan Project–era materials in the NSRC’s collections. He had excellent penmanship.
Fat Man, H-bomb patent:
The NSRC’s collections contain over 25 patents from 1944–1946, which amount to more than 5,300 mostly classified documents. These include official forms, handwritten notes, and drawings. The patents show Los Alamos has an unsurpassed—and legally documented—history of technical innovation in the nuclear weapons field. Especially noteworthy are the application for Fat Man, which lists J. Robert Oppenheimer as the inventor (right), and the application for the H-bomb, which lists Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam as inventors (above).
Richard Feynman’s personnel records:
A fellow physicist described Richard Feynman as “the most original theoretical physicist of our time” who also “liked colorful language and jokes.” Known as a prankster, a comedian, and a genius in the truest sense of the word, Feynman is one of the Lab’s most famous and beloved wartime scientists.
One of Director J. Robert Oppenheimer’s secretaries, Dorothy McKibbin, created what would become her namesake index card for each wartime lab employee upon arrival. Today, thousands of these cards are preserved in the Lab’s historic collections, including Richard Feynman’s.
Sporting a wrinkled white shirt and brown wool pants rolled up over work shoes, Feynman could often be found banging his drum in the woods or cracking codes on office safes and filing cabinets.
Nobel Prize medal official replica:
Of all the Nobel Prize winners connected to Los Alamos National Laboratory, just one earned the coveted accolade for work conducted while at the Lab. Frederick Reines was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1995 for the detection of the neutrino. Laureates can order up to three replicas of their Nobel medal; one of Reines’s replica medals is part of the NSRC’s historical collections.
Manhattan District form:
Twenty-four years old and newlywed, Feynman arrived in New Mexico with his wife Arline, who stayed in an Albuquerque hospital, suffering from tuberculosis. He borrowed cars and hitchhiked to visit her when he wasn’t working on the atomic bomb. He was by her side when she passed away in June 1945.