[Date Prev][Date Next]
[cdn-nucl-l] Obit: Roger Sutton
The man who helped build the bomb
After working on the top-secret Manhattan Project,
Saskatoon-trained physicist helped found a university department
Thursday, June 8, 2000
Roger Sutton, a Canadian-born physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project
that built the atom bomb, has died at his Pittsburgh home of cancer. He was
Although retired from Carnegie Mellon University since the mid-1980s, Mr.
Sutton continued to work on research until he became too sick to continue.
"Those guys who worked on the Manhattan Project worked every day, seven days
a week. It carried into their lives," said Carnegie Mellon professor Robert
Mr. Sutton, who was born in Lloydminster, Sask., in 1916, studied physics at
the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, where he earned bachelor's and
He earned a doctorate at Princeton University, after which he was tapped to
join top U.S. scientists at Los Alamos, N.M., where the government was
secretly developing the atomic bomb.
"To go directly from grad school into that atmosphere must have been
frightening," Prof. Kraemer said.
Mr. Sutton worked three years on the Manhattan Project.
In 1946, with the war ended, he joined the staff of what is now Carnegie
Mellon University. With others of his generation -- men who came of age as
war-era scientists -- he helped build Carnegie Mellon's physics department,
often with limited resources.
Mr. Sutton would earn a reputation as a man who was good with his hands, and
clever, ingenious and thorough in his research. Like other Manhattan Project
scientists, he remained close-mouthed about his work at Los Alamos.
By 1949, he was among the faculty who designed and built what was then the
Carnegie Institute of Technology Synchrocyclotron, or particle accelerator,
located in Saxonburg, Pa. The facility was a physics research centre.
Mr. Sutton was director of the Nuclear Research Center at the
Synchrocyclotron from 1956, when he became a full professor, until 1975,
when it closed.
He also was the principal investigator for the university's physics contract
with what was then the federal Atomic Energy Commission. And he was involved
in the design of an apparatus built for physics experiments at the Centre
for Nuclear Research in Switzerland.
On campus, Mr. Sutton taught undergraduate laboratory courses, chaired the
graduate qualifying-examination committee and was a member of the premed
He conducted experiments at the country's major physics laboratories,
including Argonne, near Chicago, and Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.
Carnegie Mellon physics professor John Fetkovich first met Mr. Sutton in
1951, when he took one of his undergraduate classes. Over the years, Mr.
Sutton served as a mentor.
"My whole career in large measure has been shaped by three people, and he
was the first of those people," Prof. Fetkovich said.
Mr. Sutton leaves his wife and two daughters, as well as two sisters who
live in Vancouver.