Commemorations

After the war, many key Met Lab scientist were recruited by the University of Chicago to join three newly established research institutes on campus: the Institute for the Study of Metals, Institute for Nuclear Studies, and Institute of Radiobiology and Biophysics. Recognizing the historical significance of the CP-1 experiment, these scientists became important contributors to a series of commemorations of the first nuclear reactor. Beginning with a fourth anniversary gathering in December 1946, these events included a tenth anniversary reunion in 1952 and activities marking the twentieth anniversary in 1962.

The passage of time brought inevitable change. Enrico Fermi died in 1954, Arthur H. Compton in 1962. The Stagg Field West Stand, site of the first operating nuclear reactor, was demolished in 1957 and replaced by tennis courts, later joined by Henry Moore’s Nuclear Energy sculpture. Fermi’s longtime collaborator, Herbert Anderson, witnessed the loss of another landmark in 1976, when the “Council Tree” under which the Met Lab scientists had gathered for private discussions was found to be diseased and cut down. Elsewhere on campus, other buildings that had been occupied by the Met Lab -- Eckhart, Jones, Kent, and Ryerson among them – remained in active use as reminders of an extraordinary period in University history and a transformative era in the development of modern science.