Atomic Heritage Foundation

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Martyl Langsdorf

Martyl Suzanne Langsdorf was born on March 16, 1917. Her mother was a painter and her father was a photographer. Martyl graduated from Washington University in St. Louis.  She married Alexander Langsdorf Jr. in 1942. Together they had two daughters, Alexandra and Suzanne.

Martyl is best known for being the designer behind the Doomsday Clock, a symbol for the potential devastation of nuclear weapons and the apocalypse. The idea of using a clock for the cover was meant to signify urgency, with the hands counting down to midnight. The Doomsday Clock was drawn for the June 1947 cover of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Martyl designed the sketch of the clock on the back of a copy of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, with the idea that the background color would change every month. The design of the clock ran on the cover of the Bulletin, for decades, and can still be found somewhere on the cover. Martyl drew end pieces and illustrations for Bulletin articles from 1947 until the 1970s.

Martyl heavily painted abstract landscapes and still lifes. She had nearly 100 solo exhibitions during her eight-decade career. She drew up until her death in 2013. Her works have found homes in the National Museum of American Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Printworks Gallery in Chicago.

Martyl Langsdorf passed away on March 26, 2013.

For a further look at Martyl’s artwork, click here.

Martyl Langsdorf 's Timeline

  • 1917 Mar 16th Born in St. Louis, Missouri.
  • 1942 Married Alexander Langsdorf, Jr.
  • 1947 Designed the Doomsday Clock for the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

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