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In Memoriam: Anne McKusick, Murray Peshkin, and Pete Domenici

In Memoriam: Anne McKusick, Murray Peshkin, and Pete Domenici


In September, we lost three friends: Manhattan Project veterans Anne McKusick and Murray Peshkin and former New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici.

Dr. Anne McKusick passed away on September 17 at the age of 95. She was born in Rochester, NY. After earning a Bachelor's degree in physics from Cornell University, in April of 1944 she went to work for the Tennessee-Eastman Company at the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge, TN. She worked on uranium purification, separating U-235 from U-238.

In a 2011 interview with AHF, McKusick remembered, "When I got to Oak Ridge, it was perhaps not surprising that there were no girls who were physicists. I remember somebody saying to me once, "You consider that you're a girl who happens to be a physicist, or a physicist who happens to be a girl?" It was just that women weren't thought to be capable of learning the subject, or thought that it was strictly a man's field at that time."

After the war, she considered studying physics but went into medicine. Dr. McKusick became a rheumatologist and an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University. 

Dr. Murray Peshkin, who passed away on September 20 at age 92, was recruited by the Army to work at Los Alamos during World War II. He was assigned to do mathematical calculations in a group working under Richard Feynman. After the Trinity test, Peshkin was part of a group that was in charge of retrieving blast gauges. In a 2008 interview with AHF, he remembered, "Volunteers were needed to go in and dig out some blast gauges. There were five of us who volunteered partly out of curiosity and because the other experimenters had already been exposed to a lot of radioactivity and we had not."

Peshkin disliked David Greenglass, the famous spy. He also worked with Louis Slotin after the war, but was not involved in the fatal "tickling the dragon's tail" experiment. Peshkin went on to become a professor at Northwestern University and worked for many years at Argonne National Laboratory. 

A Vice article by Brian Merchant in 2015 covered Peshkin's career and Manhattan Project work. After learning of his death, Merchant wrote, "Murray represents the passing of a generation of scientists and thinkers who knew full well the weight of the bomb. To me, his passing signifies in part the loss of that moral gravity, that finely tuned relationship to the weapon."

Former US Senator Pete Domenici was a champion of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and instrumental in preserving the nation's Manhattan Project heritage. He served six terms in the US Senate representing New Mexico from 1973-2009.

As Senator, he supported efforts to preserve New Mexico's Manhattan Project history, and spoke at AHF events. After leaving the Senate, he served as a senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center. He passed away at age 85 on September 13.