Managing the Met Lab

The rapid increase in the scale of the Manhattan Project in 1943 brought a wave of additional scientists and lab staff to the University of Chicago campus. At its peak, the Met Lab at the University of Chicago employed more than 2,000 workers; by the end of World War II, more than 1,300 were still on the payroll.

The administrative structure of the Met Lab consisted of numerous divisions: Theoretical Physics, Experimental Nuclear Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mass Spectroscopy, Medical, Health Physics, and Patents, among others. Divisions were further subdivided into sections and groups. Some Met Lab workers were recruited from the greater Chicago area, but others drawn to the project from elsewhere in the country. Many of those who found employment in the laboratories and offices were women.

The growing space needs of the Met Lab required appropriation of all or part of many University of Chicago campus buildings. Eckhart, Jones, Kent, and Ryerson halls were all called into service, as were the North Stand and West Stand of Stagg Field. A sprawling structure known as the New Chemistry Building and Annex was erected along Ingleside Avenue from 56th to 57th Street, while south of the Midway Plaisance a former brewery company building owned by the University was expanded and outfitted as a laboratory known as Site B. Some Met Lab facilities were also located in non-University buildings in the immediate neighborhood, at the Museum of Science and Industry in Jackson Park and at the 124th Field Artillery Armory on Cottage Grove Avenue.