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Caltech Professor Who Helped Develop The Atomic Bomb Dies At 96

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Robert F. Christy. (credit: Caltech)

Robert F. Christy. (credit: Caltech)

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LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A Caltech professor who was instrumental in the development of the atomic bomb has died at age 96.

Robert F. Christy died Wednesday at his Pasadena home, according to Caltech.

Christy was a professor of theoretical physics from 1946 to 1985. He held several key administration posts during his nearly 40-year career at the university, including the positions of vice president, provost and acting president.

A native Canadian, Christy studied physics at UC Berkeley under physicist Robert Oppenheimer and was one of the first people recruited by Oppenheimer to participate in the Manhattan Project that created the atomic bomb during World War II. Christy was an important figure in developing the bomb’s trigger mechanism, this experience leading him to oppose further development of nuclear weapons.

At Caltech, Christy worked in nuclear physics, first with cosmic rays and later in astrophysics, investigating the mechanisms driving the pulsations in the brightness of stars to measure cosmic distances.

Christy was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1965 and two years later won Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society’s Eddington Medal for his work. In the mid-1980s, he became a member of a National Research Council’s Committee that studied the radiation effects of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

(©2012 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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