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Harry K. Daghlian

AKA Haroutune Krikor Daghlian, Jr.

Born: 4-May-1921
Birthplace: Waterbury, CT
Died: 15-Sep-1945
Location of death: Los Alamos, NM
Cause of death: Accident - Misc [1]

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Casualty of the Manhattan Project

While still a graduate student in physics at Purdue University, Harry K. Daghlian (pronounced dolly-an) was recruited for the Manhattan Project, and he arrived at Los Alamos in November 1943. On 21 August 1945, he performed a series of delicate experiments in the critical mass of plutonium, which involved stacking several layers of tungsten carbide bricks around a plutonium core. At about 9:55 PM -- in violation of safety rules, which prohibited potentially dangerous experiments either alone or after hours -- he accidentally dropped one of the bricks onto the plutonium. This caused the core to go supercritical, and in an instant Daghlian reflexively pushed the brick away, stopping a runaway chain reaction but exposing his right hand to massive radiation. He was estimated to have received between 20,000 and 40,000 rem -- four to eight times the dose usually described as fatal.

Hospitalized immediately, his hand was already glowing blue and blistering, and he died 26 days later. Due to the secrecy surrounding the project, Daghlian's death was quietly announced as due to "chemical burns". Fifty-five years after his death a memorial was dedicated in his adopted home town of New London, Connecticut, which reads in part, "though not in uniform, he died in service to his country."


[1] Radiation poisoning.

Father: Haroutune Krikor Daghlian (x-ray technician)
Mother: Margaret Rose Currie Daghlian
Sister: Helen Daghlian
Brother: Edward Daghlian

    High School: Bulkeley High School, Hartford, CT (1938)
    University:
MIT
    University: BS, Purdue University (1942)

    Radiation Mishap Omega Site, Los Alamos (21-Aug-1945)
    Coma
    Manhattan Project
    Armenian Ancestry


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