Alvin M. Weinberg

Alvin Martin Weinberg ( born April 20, 1915 in Chicago, † October 18, 2006 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee) was an American nuclear physicist and science organizer.


Alvin Weinberg was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, his father, originally a tailor, worked his way up to senior employees of a clothing factory in Chicago upwards. Weinberg Jr. was a doctorate in mathematical biophysics from the University of Chicago in 1939. During his subsequent cooperation with the Department of Metallurgy at the University of Chicago, he was also involved in the Manhattan Project. There he helped Eugene Wigner in the development of the Hanford reactors that produced plutonium. In 1948, he was Director of Research at the Laboratory in Oak Ridge. From 1955 to 1973 he was director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. During this time he conducted the research on the use of isotopes in nuclear medicine, the result of research of radioactivity on people and the impact of nuclear energy on the environment. The conception of his pressurized water reactors became the standard in the nuclear submarines of the U.S. Navy.

A project that was particularly the vineyard at heart, was from 1965 to the development of a molten salt reactor, which should work as a thermal thorium breeders. He warned since 1972 against hazards in light water reactors and fast breeder reactors and escalating costs in the development of " fast breeder ". According to his memoirs (1994 ) him of the resignation as ORNL Director was out suggested. The molten salt reactor project was not further promoted after an evaluation in 1973.

In 1963, he wrote as chairman of John F. Kennedy's Panel of Science Information Committee the report entitled Science, Government, and Information with suggestions to improve the information transfer between science and the public, which was also named after him as a vineyard Report. Weinberg was an influential government adviser who particularly emphasized the need for major research centers plus coined terms like " Big Science ", " Technological Fix" and "trans -science ".

Weinberg was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. On May 18, 1960, he was awarded, together with Walter Henry Zinn of the Atoms for Peace Award. In 1991 he received the Eugene P. Wigner Reactor Physicist Award.

Since 1995, Alvin M. Weinberg Medal is awarded annually for achievements in promoting the understanding of the social impact of nuclear power by the American Nuclear Society.


  • With Eugene P. Wigner: The Physical Theory of Neutron Chain Reactors. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1958.
  • Reflections on Big Science. M.I.T. Press, Cambridge (Mass. ) 1967. Translation: Problems of large-scale research. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main, 1970.