In The News

Atom bomb physicist Robert Christy passes away

Atom bomb physicist Robert Christy passes away

THE physicist Robert F. Christy, who played an important part in the development of the atom bomb, has passed away. He was 96.

Born in Canada, Dr. Christy had been recruited to work on the Manhattan Project — the secret operation to develop the atom bomb at Los Alamos in New Mexico during the Second World War.

The project was headed by J. Robert Oppenheimer, whom Dr. Christy had studied under at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Although hundreds of scientists worked on the project, Dr. Christy’s contribution was to prove highly important. One of the problems facing the scientists was how to trigger the chain reaction which in turn would result in a nuclear explosion.

It was at first envisaged that a sphere of conventional explosives would be used to compress a central ball of nuclear fuel into a dense mass and thus trigger the reaction process. But this was found to be defective and Dr. Christy came up with an alternative process which involved using the blast to compress a solid core of plutonium metal.

His design — known as the Christy Gadget — was adopted as the explosive core of the first atom bomb, which was set off in the New Mexico desert in 1945, and on the device which was subsequently dropped on Nagasaki.

After the war, Dr. Christy joined Caltech to teach theoretical physics and was to remain at the university for the rest of his career. He went on to study the riddles of space including pulsations in the brightness of stars.

In later life he was to question if it was wise to further develop nuclear arms, but he never actively opposed such plans.

During his time at Caltech he served as a faculty chairman, vice president and provost. He took emeritus status in 1986

Dr. Christy was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and, in 1967, was awarded the Eddington Medal by the Royal Astronomical Society for his work in theoretical astrophysics.


View previous In the News items: Great session guitarist Big Jim Sullivan passes away, Tributes are paid to historian Eric Hobsbawm, Motown producer Frank Wilson passes away, Veteran actor Herbert Lom passes away, Singer Andy Williams passes away, Former football manager John Bond passes away, Tributes are paid to Cookstown funeral director, Tributes are paid to top wine merchant, Former London gangster Charlie Richardson passes away, American poet Louis Simpson passes away, Funeral takes place of tragic father and sons, Former footballer Jimmy Andrews passes away, Man behind advances in Formula 1 racing safety passes away, Discovered remains may be those of Richard III, Film producer Jake Eberts passes away, Inventor of modern laptop computer Bill Moggridge passes away, Wildlife expert Terry Nutkins passes away, Singer songwriter Joe South passes away, Funeral of motorcycle road racer takes place, Oscar nominated actor Michael Clarke Duncan passes away, Oscar nominated actor Michael Clarke Duncan passes away, Comedian and entertainer Max Bygraves passes away, Former junior minister Sir Rhodes Boyson passes away, Former Royal Navy frogman Sydney Knowles passes away, First man on the moon Neil Armstrong passes away, Character actor william Windom passes away, Amy Winehouse Foundation supports hospice in Dublin, Author Nina Bawden passes away, Comedian Phyllis Diller passes away, Tributes are paid to singer songwriter Scott McKenzie, Tragic mother Winnie Johnson passes away, Science fiction writer Harry Harrison passes away, Disability rights pioneer Lord Morris passes away, Darts broadcaster Sid Waddell passes away, Special effects expert Carlo Rambaldi passes away, Astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell passes away, Art critic and writer Robert Hughes passes away, Famous violinist Ruggiero Ricci passes away, Vital equipment is donated in memory of Joby Murphy, Remains of Ned Kelly to be handed over, Irish author Maeve Binchy passes away, TV great Geoffrey Hughes passes away, Antiques expert David Barby passes away, Actress Mary Tamm passes away, First US woman in space passes away, Tributes are paid to actor Simon Ward, Former News at Ten presenter passes away, Bollywood superstar Rejesh Khanna passes away, Country music legend Kitty Wells passes away, Tributes are paid to film producer Richard ZanuckFormer jazz singer Maria Cole passes away or Andy Griffith of Matlock fame passes away


If you have a relative or a friend who has passed away and feel they should be mentioned in our In the News section, then please email us.