Lapp, Ralph Eugene 1917-2004
LAPP, Ralph Eugene 1917-2004
OBITUARY NOTICE— See index for CA sketch: Born August 24, 1917, in Buffalo, NY; died of pneumonia September 7, 2004, in Alexandria, VA. Physicist and author. Lapp was one of the scientists on the Manhattan Project who developed the atomic bomb, but throughout his life he worked to warn people of the dangers of nuclear war and radiation fallout. Graduating from the University of Chicago with a doctorate in physics in 1945, he studied high-energy physics briefly under Arthur H. Compton before joining the Manhattan Project in 1943. Despite being on the team that raced to develop an atomic warhead before the Nazis or Japanese could, Lapp was one of a number of scientists on the project who urged President Harry S Truman not to use the bomb on the Japanese without first giving them the chance to surrender. Truman ignored the advice, ordering two bombs dropped on Japan and ending the war in the Pacific. His work for the project now done, Lapp next served as assistant director at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago from 1945 to 1946, followed by a year as a scientific advisor to the U.S. War Department and another year as executive director for atomic energy at the Research and Development Board in Washington, D.C. His last government-related post was as head of the nuclear physics branch of the Office of Naval Research from 1949 to 1950. After this, Lapp founded his own consulting firm, Nuclear Science Service. Later, from 1964 to 1978, he cofounded Quadri-Science Inc., and from 1983 to 2002 he founded Lapp, Inc., both of which were nuclear energy consulting firms. During the 1950s and 1960s, Lapp became well known for his lectures and writings warning about the hazards of nuclear tests and the proliferation of nuclear arms, and he often criticized the federal government for not being straightforward with the public about its nuclear activities and their dangers. On the other hand, Lapp felt that nuclear science could be used for peaceful purposes as a source of safe energy. Among his many books on nuclear war and energy are Must We Hide? (1949), Atoms and People (1956), The Voyage of the Lucky Dragon (1958), The Weapons Culture (1968), America's Energy (1976), and My Life with Radiation: Hiroshima Plus Fifty Years (1995).
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Chicago Tribune, September 17, 2004, section 3, p. 11.
Los Angeles Times, September 15, 2004, p. B8.
New York Times, September 10, 2004, p. A25.
Washington Post, September 13, 2004, p. B6.