In the midst of the pop culture hype surrounding Christopher Nolan’s new movie “Oppenheimer“ (have you heard it opened the same day as another very different movie?) is the true story of the development of the atomic bomb.
Front and center in the story of how the bomb came to be is physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who led the top-secret Manhattan Project. And one of the NASA scientists who worked alongside him retired to and died in St. Petersburg.
His name was J Allen Crocker. The Tampa Bay Times wrote about his death in January 1996, when Crocker died at age 84 at St. Anthony’s Hospital.
Trained as an electrical engineer, the scientist worked with Oppenheimer and Enrico Fermi at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory at the University of California as part of the Manhattan Project. He was born in New York and came to St. Petersburg in 1976 from Bethesda, Maryland. He was a member of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.
Crocker’s obituary reads: “Among the first to sign on when NASA was formed in 1958, Crocker began as chief of guidance and control programs. He retired as special assistant to NASA’s associate administrator.
During his 18-year NASA career, he worked on several projects that later surfaced as groundbreaking medical and scientific advances, said Dr. Lindley Wagner, a Duke University physician who struck up a friendship with Crocker on a cruise to the Caribbean last Thanksgiving.
Among those projects were fiber optics, magnetic resonance imaging and cardiac telemetry, Wagner said.”
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