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Raemer S. Schreiber


Raemer Schreiber dead at 88

Raemer Edgar Schreiber died today at age 88.

"Schreib," as his friends called him, came to Los Alamos in November 1943 from Purdue University, where he had been a Research Associate at the Purdue Research Foundation. Schreib found his wartime experience working alongside the cream of the world's scientists a heady experience, and decided to stay and work for Laboratory Director Norris Bradbury after World War II. Although he did not expect to work at the Laboratory permanently, remained until his retirement in 1974, after serving as the Laboratory's deputy director for two years.

Schreiber was born Nov. 11, 1910, in McMinnville, Ore., the youngest of Michael and Bertha Schreiber's seven children. His parents owned a farm near McMinnville, where Schreib grew up. He attended Yamhill County Elementary School, McMinnville High School, and received his bachelor's degree from Linfield College in 1931. He attended graduate school at the University of Oregon, where he received his masters, and Purdue, where he received his doctorate in physics in 1941.

Upon arriving at Los Alamos, Schreib went to work on the Water Boiler Reactor, which went critical in May 1944, the first reactor to go critical using enriched uranium. He continued to work on improved reactor models until April 1945, when he became a member of the pit assembly team for the Trinity test. After Trinity, Schreib escorted the plutonium core of the Fat Man device to Tinian Island, where he helped assemble the Nagasaki bomb. One of his most vivid memories of his duty in the Pacific was watching preparations by the Pacific fleet for the invasion of the Japanese home islands. Schreib always said that his work on Fat Man saved many lives by making the invasion unnecessary.

After the war, Schreib became a group leader in the Weapons (W) Division. In May 1946, he was watching Louis Slotin conduct a critical assembly experiment, when an accident exposed Schreib, Slotin and several others to ionizing radiation, killing Slotin. As a result of the accident, Schreib became a leader in developing remote handling technology at Los Alamos. He went on to lead the pit assembly team at Operation Crossroads in June and July of 1946.

In 1947 Schreib became associate leader of W Division and division leader in 1951. W Division played a key role in designing the first hydrogen bomb in 1952. In 1955 he became leader of the Nuclear Rocket Propulsion (N) Division, with primary responsibility for the Rover program. In this capacity he met John F. Kennedy during the President's 1962 visit to Los Alamos. That same year he became technical associate director of the Laboratory and deputy director in 1972.

After his retirement, Schreib remained active in both Laboratory and community affairs. He served as an unpaid consultant to the Laboratory from 1975 to 1995. In the late 1980s he was a member of the Laboratory's History Advisory Council, which assisted in the publication of Critical Assembly: A Technical History of Los Alamos during the Oppenheimer Years, 1943-1945. In 1994-1995, he assisted the Human Studies Project Team in reviewing the history of medical studies at the Laboratory.

From 1975 to 1978 he was chairman of the State of New Mexico Energy Resources Board and later a member of the Research and Development Committee of the New Mexico Energy and Minerals Department. He also found time to serve on the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Safety Advisory Committee for the SP-100 space reactor program and as an advisor to the Smithsonian Institution on nuclear issues.

Schreib also served the local community in retirement. He was a member of the "Goals 75" Los Alamos County Steering Committee (1974-75), chairman of the Fuller Lodge Renovation Committee (1975-76), a member of the Los Alamos Retirement Center Board (1981-83), helped oversee construction of Sombrillo Intermediate Care Facility, and was a volunteer income tax consultant for the elderly under an AARP program (1986-90).

Among his many honors and awards are an honorary doctorate of science from Purdue University (1964), Linfield College Alumnus of the Year (1965), and Joint recipient of the Schreiber-Spence Award from the Institute of Nuclear Space Propulsion (1988). Schreib was a Fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Nuclear Society, and served as national president of the American Nuclear Society from 1967 to 1968. The Laboratory's Advanced Nuclear Technology Group (NIS-6) plans to name its conference room the Raemer E. Schreiber Room in honor of Schreib's contributions to nuclear criticality research.

Schreiber is survived by his wife of sixty-five years, Marguerite of Los Alamos, two daughters, Paula Dransfield and husband Geoffrey of Santa Fe, and Sara Schreiber of Corvallis, Orgeon; one sister, Anna Bergstrom of McMinnville, Oregon; and a grandson, Benjamin Raemer Saunders of Los Alamos. He was preceded in death by four sisters and one brother. The family requests that donations be made to Sombrillo in lieu of flowers.



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