Discussion of The American Lab

Tuesday, March 12, 2019
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
William J. Perry Conference Room
Encina Hall, Second Floor, Central, C231
616 Jane Stanford Way, Stanford, CA 94305
  • Bruce Tarter

Abstract: The American Lab, published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2018, tells the story of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (the Lab) from the events leading to its founding in 1952 through its transfer to private status in 2008 (after 66 years of sole University of California management). It highlights the important episodes in that journey beginning with the invention of Polaris, the first submarine launched ballistic missile, continuing through the Lab’s controversial role in the Star Wars program, and helping lead the development of the stockpile stewardship program after the cessation of nuclear testing. It describes the intense focus on-laboratory-scale thermonuclear fusion with early work in magnetic fusion to the world’s largest effort on laser fusion that ultimately resulted in the construction of the National Ignition Facility. It includes a number of smaller projects ranging from its participation in founding the Human Genome Project (and its subsequent effort in biodefense) to its array of activities on global climate and basic research. Throughout, the book emphasizes the national security environment in which the Lab existed and the increasing role of politics in “big science”.


Bio: C. Bruce Tarter is a theoretical physicist with a BS from MIT and a PhD from Cornell. He began as a researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1967 and eventually served as its Director from 1994-2002. Since that time as Director Emeritus he has served on a number of Boards and Task Forces including the National Academy study of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.