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World War II - October 3, 2014

Q: Most Kansans are familiar with how General Dwight D. Eisenhower, of Abilene, helped defeat Germany and Italy in World War II. Less well known is how another Kansan helped defeat Japan in the Pacific theater. This nuclear physicist was born in Hoisington, studied physics at Emporia State University and then helped develop the atomic bomb, which ended the war with Japan. What's the name of this man who also taught physics at the University of Kansas?

L.-Worth-Seagondollar NCSUL. Worth Seagondollar as a faculty member of North Carolina State University. (Photo Courtesy of NCSU Libraries)


A: L. Worth Seagondollar (Or, Lewis Worth Seagondollar)


Lewis Worth Seagondollar was one of the few scientists chosen to watch the world’s first atomic explosion at the Trinity test site. Seagondollar worked on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico, which developed the atom bomb. He was also one of the youngest scientists recruited to work on the top secret program. Seagondollar was part of a special three-man team in charge of verifying the critical mass of the Plutonium-239 isotope. Seagondollar was born in Hoisington and studied physics at what would later be called Emporia State University. Seagondollar also taught physics at the University of Kansas and North Carolina State. He helped build KU’s first particle accelerator, or “atom smasher.” He died last year (2013).


Fun Factoid: For what it's "Worth," the national honor society for physics, Sigma Pi Sigma, presents an award named after Seagondollar. It's called the Worth Seagondollar.

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