Hans Bethe, who in 1943 became director of the Theoretical Division of the Manhattan project at Los Alamos and later won the Nobel Prize for his contributions to the theory of nuclear reactions, and mathematics professor Mark Kac, who was the developer of modern mathematical probability theory and its applications to statistical physics.
Jim left Los Alamos in 1946 and returned to Cornell to complete his studies in nuclear physics, receiving his B.S. in 1947 and his Ph.D. in 1951. Among his many life-changing events at Los Alamos was his meeting another physicist, Margaret Ramsey, one of the few women scientists employed on the Manhattan Project, which she joined in 1945. She also left the project in 1946 and went to Indiana University to pursue a master’s degree, which she completed while working in physics at Cornell. She and Jim were married in 1947. They both were employed in the physics department at Cornell through 1952, where Jim conducted pioneering experimental investigations of photo-nuclear reactions on a 300-Mev synchrotron he assisted in developing. He then went to the California Institute of Technology for three years as a senior research fellow, where he continued his studies of photonuclear reactions on the 500-Mev Caltech synchrotron.
In 1955, at the height of the Cold War, Arthur Kantrowitz, a professor at Cornell, had become convinced that the most important problem facing America was the need to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). He foresaw Russia’s threatening missile development, which was confirmed dramatically two years later with the launching of the Sputnik satellite. To counteract the Russian program, he decided to set up a research laboratory in Everett, Massachusetts, under the umbrella of the Avco Corporation for the purpose of providing the research needed to develop ICBMs that could reenter the atmosphere without burning up. He had not known Jim from Cornell but had heard from Victor Emanuel the head of Avco that Jim was brilliant, a fact passed on to him by his son who did know Jim. Kantrowitz very much wanted Jim and in 1955, at a time when Jim was prepared to go to Princeton, convinced him, along with a number of other Cornell alumni, to join