James Franck and the “Franck Report”

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James Franck
Courtesy of Stuart Rice,
the James Franck Institute,
The University of Chicago

"James Franck was one of Germany's leading experimental physicists in the 1920s and early 1930s. He is remembered by physicists today primarily because of the Franck–Hertz experiment, for which he and Gustav Hertz were awarded the 1925 Nobel Prize in Physics, and for the Franck–Condon principle. Franck left Germany in 1933. As an immigrant in the US, he resumed his earlier efforts to understand how chlorophyll uses sunlight to form carbohydrates. …

Early in 1938 Franck accepted a position at the University of Chicago. … Japan's December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in the almost immediate mobilization of US physicists into the nuclear weapon and radar programs. Technology development for plutonium production was put under the leadership of Arthur Compton in the Manhattan Project's codenamed "Metallurgical Laboratory" at the University of Chicago. Compton asked Franck to head the Met Lab's chemistry division. Franck responded that he would do so …

[Franck also] chaired the project's committee that produced the secret "Franck Report." Out of concern that a surprise nuclear attack on Japan would make a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union inevitable, the report recommended a demonstration explosion instead."


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