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Kenneth Bainbridge

Kenneth Bainbridge

Again your average Joe Blow on the street will scratch his head and ask "This is a caricature of Kenneth Who?" Well, folks, Ken happens to be (probably unwillingly) one of the most important men in the Twentieth Century.

Kenneth Bainbridge was the director of the Trinity test on July 16, 1945 about ninety miles northwest of Alamogordo, New Mexico. For those who really don't know your history, the Trinity test was the first nuclear explosion on Earth. Although the scientists on the Manhattan Project had no doubts about the first type of bomb - the U-235 "gun barrel" design which was soon to be dropped on Hiroshima - no one knew if the more complex plutonium bomb - destined for Nagasaki and triggered by imploding the core - would work. So they had to test it out. Ken was saddled with the job of planning, setting up, and supervising the test to make sure everything went smoothly - which it did, relatively speaking.

Like most of the scientists working on the Manhattan Project, Ken had quite the distinguished career. Before (and after) the war he was professor of physics at Harvard, and rest assured, not everybody gets that job. His research wasn't quite as sexy (to the public mind) as the stuff that Einstein and Hawking might crank out, but it's still has merit.

Regardless of history's final judgement on the atomic bomb and the men who made it, Ken certainly was a man with a gift for selecting the right words at the right time. As the scientists stood watching the mushroom cloud rise over the desert, Ken turned to Robert Oppenheimer. "Now we're all sons-of-bitches," he said.

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