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Obituaries

* Mark Oliphant; Helped Create Atom Bomb

July 18, 2000

Mark Oliphant, 98, a physicist who helped split the atom and develop nuclear weapons but rued what he had created. Oliphant was a young physicist at the Cavendish Laboratory at Britain's Cambridge University in 1932 when he worked with the team that first split the atom. In 1943, he led a team of British scientists who traveled to the United States to assist with the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb. But after the U.S. dropped two bombs on Japan in 1945 to end World War II, Oliphant was shocked and ashamed of the result of his work. The physicist, who once described himself as a "war criminal" for his role, turned his focus to peaceful uses for nuclear power. In the 1930s, Oliphant also did extensive research on radar, leading to devices small enough to fit into airplanes and, eventually, to development of microwave ovens. He returned to his native Australia in 1950, conducted research in Canberra and helped found the Australian Academy of Science. In recognition of his achievements, he was appointed governor of South Australia state from 1971 to 1976. Oliphant lectured extensively on nuclear disarmament, the environment and alternative energy. On Friday in Canberra, Australia.

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