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In Memoriam: Ed Grothus

In Memoriam: Ed Grothus

Ed Grothus in front of the Black Hole

On February 12, 2009, Edward Grothus passed away. Ed was the owner of the Black Hole, a surplus store in Los Alamos that sold old scientific equipment from the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He was 85.Image 

Born on June 28, 1923, in Clinton, Iowa, Ed arrived in Los Alamos on March 23, 1949. He worked in the laboratory as a machinist and technician until December 1969, when he quit in order to devote more time to his business and his peace activism.

While employed in the lab, Ed founded the Los Alamos Sales Company (unofficially known to all as the Black Hole) in 1951. Over the ensuing decades he amassed a tremendous amount of scientific equipment to sell in his shop. Ed opened his first permanent store in an old, A-frame Lutheran church. In 1976, he and his wife expanded the business by renovating the Piggly Wiggly grocery store next door. Ed hoped the materials, which had formerly been used in weapons production, could be recycled to serve peaceful purposes. Artists, inventors, set directors, and curious individuals came from around the world to visit Ed's shop.

Over the course of his life, Ed received a number of awards, including the 2006 Nuclear Free Future Lifetime Achievement, the 2006 Indigenous World Uranium Summit Lifetime Achievement, and the 2007 Allan Hauser Memorial Award. He has been featured in The Guardian (UK), Wired, Esquire, Mother Jones, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and in television and radio programming, including that of HBO and NPR.

Ed's final project involved two blocks of black granite that had been used as a seismograph mount at the lab. Ed sent the 6400-pound blocks to a quarrying company in China to carve them into twin obelisks, each weighing 40 tons and standing 42 feet high. He explained to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that the obelisks were "to be Rosetta Stones for the Nuclear Age." Each obelisk is perched on a "doomsday stone" bearing inscriptions of the basic facts of the nuclear age in fifteen languges.

He will be missed.

To read more about Ed's life, please see the following:

March 1, 2006
Ed Grothus and the Doomsday Stones 
By Chris Jones

December 8, 2006
Ed Grothus Speaks! 
By John Brownlee

December 18, 2008
The Legacy of Ed Grothus and the Black Hole
By Hugh Gusterson