Seaborg Remarks

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Seaborg Remarks


Hanford Atomic Products Operation


"Dr. Seaborn was in Richland to give the commencement address for the 1994 graduating class. IT was also the 50th anniversary of his first visit to Hanford during WWII. He made these remarks during a reception where he was awarded recognition by several professional societies."




Hanford History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities




Those interested in reproducing part or all of this oral history should contact the Hanford History Project







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CREHST Oral History Project
Title: “Seaborg Remarks”
Date of interview: May 14, 1994
Location of interview: WSU, Tri-Cities
Interviewer: Ron Kathren
Interviewed: Glenn Seaborg
Transcriber: Robert Clayton

Dr. Seaborg was in Richland to give the commencement address for the 1994 graduating class. It was also the 50th anniversary of his first visit to Hanford during WWII. He made these remarks during a reception where he was awarded recognition by several professional societies. (attendee’s gather inside and outside of the WSU, TRI-CITIES reception area.)

RON KATHREN: Welcome to you here today at WSU and our community here in Richland. A lot of good Science goes on and these are some of the scientists representing 3 of the local scientific societies: The American Chemical Society, The American Nuclear Society, and the Health Physics Society. In conjunction with those 3 groups the Trans-uranium and Uranium Registry, which are a part of Washington State University, put together this reception and Professor Seaborg agreed to attend graciously along with
Mrs. Seaborg and I don’t want to leave Helen out because I notice that her family is much like my family and those of you who know me will understand what means. I have to punch a time clock at home.

ALLEN WALTER: She really thinks that she is the brains of the family.

RON KATHREN: So I’ll introduce you to these fine people standing here: Allen Walter who is the National President of the American Nuclear Society. Next to him is Jerry Gath. Any errors in the book are Jerry’s fault. (Laughter). Terry Aldridge the local Health Physics Society President, and Jim Campbell the American Chemical Society local Section President. Now these people are heavily involved in all this but the real people who did the real work…I can’t even see from here. There’s one of them, Lynn Harwick, who is the administrative manager for the Registries. Where’s June Markel? She’s hiding somewhere. June Markel put this whole thing together almost single-handedly. And I’d like to thank her publicly. I think that you all appreciated the effort that she put out. A lot of you wanted to buy books. They simply ran out. For those of you who want to buy books at the discount rate there are a bunch of order blanks on the table by the door to the Benitz Library and we’ll take care of getting them off to the publisher. Members of the C-31 Group June has arraigned transportation for you to the next event of the afternoon. But the real thing today is to present Glenn Seaborg something that he really needs. When I was down visiting him I noticed a crack in his wall. (Laughter) Right next to your picture of you and Abraham Lincoln together. (Laughter). Glen this citation reads: Honoring Glenn T. Seaborg for extraordinary lifetime contributions to Science, Education, and the Nation. Presented on the occasion of his 50th anniversary visit to Hanford by an appreciative group of younger colleges. Given in Richland, WA this 14th Day of May, in the year 1994. And it is my pleasure to present that to you (Applause).

RON KATHREN: He’s going to tell us about his tie now. (Laughter).

SEABORG: Well this is totally unexpected. Thank-you very much. As Ron has indicated and called attention to my tie I might mention its significance. I wear it on occasions like this. It was presented to me. It has the 5 colors of the 5 oxidation states of plutonium. (Laughter). Those of you who know something about the plutonium industry the oxidation states are 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. As Ron has indicated this occasion constitutes well the opportunity for a re-union of the chemists and chemical engineers who worked with me at the metallurgical laboratory and other parts of the project during the war. Actually 50 years ago. In fact May is the 50th anniversary of my first visit to Hanford. These are the people who worked with me in conceiving, producing, and scaling up the chemical processes that were used for the production of plutonium here at Hanford. And we’re going to have a reunion at the home of Fred and Eddrey Albaugh. Eddrey served as my secretary to help me run this group of chemists during the metallurgical laboratory days. And Fred was a classmate of mine at UCLA whom I brought to Chicago. And then he stole Eddrey from me. (Laughter) And they got married. I believe this has been a wonderful occasion to come back here to Hanford and Richland after all of these years. I described in my commencement address last night something about what Hanford and Richland looked like 50 years ago so I won’t go through that again. I’ve been back here a large number of times I would imagine about 10 times since that first visit and watch the place change. It’s still a dynamic place. Of course for another reason now to clean up the mess that we made. I might make a remark in that connection too. We certainly had another agenda then. That was to beat Hitler to the atomic bomb. If we’d have stopped and paid attention to waste disposal and so forth at that time well it would have been impossible. It just would not have been feasible. And I don’t know of a single person who didn’t have in mind that the primary objective was to get this job done. And get it done as soon as possible. Well as I have indicated it’s a nostalgic experience to come back here to Hanford. It coincides with the publication of my Metallurgical Laboratory Journal which was arraigned by Ron Kathren and the work done by Jerry Dopp and his student Gary Benefield. I’m sorry the publisher didn’t have hundreds of copies out here. (Laughter). But hope you’ll all be able to get copies. It’s quite a production job. It’s really only about 1/4 or 1/3 of the journal but I think the most important parts are in there. And included are 670 graphical sketches of the people involved. Now you can imagine the task the problem of getting the material on 670 people. I and Jerry and Ron were on the phone all over the United States. I would get a lead on where somebody was and sometimes it would take several phone calls. Sometimes of course I would learn that the person had died and I would reach the wife or in some cases a child. I encountered a tremendous variation in the ability of the person to respond. I mean after 50 years the youngest would be …let’s say 20 years old almost none were that young but let’s say 20 then most of them would be about 80 years old. And so I had a great variation in the responsiveness of these people. Bearing all the way from not knowing quite who I was to who he was (Laughter) to people like those here today who of course are all right on the ball. Helen was in it from the very beginning. She was Ernest Lawrence’s secretary. He was the director of the laboratory at Berkley, the Radiation Laboratory, and the inventor of the cyclotron. Actually I dictated to Helen in her role as Lawrence’s secretary the reports describing the discovery of plutonium. And the first chemical study of this element. I’d like to say Helen was so efficient as his secretary and taking down these dictations that I began to date her. She doesn’t relate so well to that. I quickly found that she had other attributes as well. So we began to date each other. We had some obstacles to overcome. I was going with somebody and she was going with somebody else. So we straightened that out. I knew from the beginning what my objective was. It only took me one look and I knew what I was going to try for. And I was persistent and little by little we began to go together and so forth. Then when I was called to Chicago after Pearl Harbor when the Manhattan Project or what became the Manhattan Project when the production of plutonium was set up. I knew that I needed to make some arrangement so I made a deal with Helen before I left for Chicago. Well some people would say I proposed to her. She accepted me and then I went to Chicago and came back by arrangement in 6 weeks. To the Bay area to the Radiation Laboratory. And then we took a train down to Los Angeles a night train. By the way in those days in separate berths. (Laughter) Introduced her to my parents and then the next day we took a night train to Nevada. We got off the train at a place called Caliente to get married. We thought. Well Caliente wasn’t the county seat. We tried to get a marriage license and they said well you know you can’t get it here. This is described in the book.

RON KATHREN: Yes the book is really a love story. You’ll learn the real reason he used to visit Earnest Lawrence wasn’t to see Earnest Lawrence. (Laughter)

SEABORG: Absolutely! I found a lot of reasons to visit Earnest Lawrence. Anyway we Managed, but you’ll have to read this in the book, to find the county seat and hook a ride on a mail truck going 30 miles north, helping to deliver mail along the way, and we finally got married. Actually on the 50th anniversary or a day very close to that we happened to be in Las Vegas, Nevada for the annual meeting of the American Academy of Achievement. So we took time off and drove up to the town where we got married. Found the courthouse and everything. It’s all there. And had a real nostalgic experience. Well I talked longer than I intended to well I turned to Helen to ask her and she says, “Yes!” ask her if I overlooked anything? Well we appreciate you all being here honoring us in this way. I will find a place for this if not next to my picture with Abraham Lincoln then next to my picture with Ann Margaret. (Laughter) (Applause)

RON KATHREN: I’d like to thank all my society people from the Trans-Uranium Registry and again June Markel to Susan Young who I neglected before and Lynn Harwick they put it all together and the University for this lovely setting. Thank you all very much. (Applause) There is in fact and I’ve seen it myself and so has Jerry we’ll vouch for its authenticity a picture of Glenn Seaborg standing next to Abraham Lincoln on the wall in his office. And I think you are 2” taller than Abe. But he’s a little younger than that.


(Photos taken and people milling about the reception area and campus)







CREHST Museum, “Seaborg Remarks,” Hanford History Project, accessed December 1, 2023,