Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Hull: Former UNM Provost Helped Build A-Bomb
By Lloyd Jojola
Journal Staff Writer
McAllister Hull, former provost and professor emeritus of physics at the University of New Mexico who also had a hand in the building of the atomic bomb dropped over Nagasaki, died Feb. 7, in South Carolina. He was 87.
Hull was 21 when he began working at Los Alamos, and within nine months he was overseeing the casting of the explosive lenses needed to compress the plutonium core of the "Fat Man" bomb.
"Different kinds of people worked on the Manhattan Project, from the greatest scientist in the world to the ordinary people doing ordinary things," Hull told the Journal in a 2006 interview to discuss his book, "Rider of the Pale Horse: A Memoir of Los Alamos & Beyond" (2005 UNM Press).
He said he dealt with the sorrow and regret of being part of the nuclear bombings.
"Anyone who works on weapons has a responsibility for people who are killed with those weapons," Hull said in the interview. "As a consequence, I have a personal responsibility for some of those people who were killed in Nagasaki."
Birmingham, Ala.-born Hull was a Mississippi State University student when the U.S. entered World War II. He left school after his freshman year and became a draftsman at an ordnance plant, where he was trained to test explosives and was later drafted into the Army Specialized Training Program, he told The Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., in 2007.
The Army staff sergeant was sent to Los Alamos in 1944.
"Of course, my colleagues and I were very pleased that our efforts had not failed," Hull told The Albuquerque Tribune in 1985. "We had no idea about the tactics or the strategy of using both bombs. And today, it is still controversial whether the second bomb should have been used or whether either bomb should have been used. But that's hindsight."
Hull earned a bachelor's and doctorate in physics at Yale University.
He taught at the State University of New York, Oregon State University and at Yale, and held the title of dean of graduate and professional education at SUNY-Buffalo, before being named UNM provost in 1977.
Hull served as provost through the mid-1980s and was a UNM Physics and Astronomy Department professor from 1977 to 1989.
He moved to Charleston, S.C., in 2007.
He is survived by his wife Mary Muska Hull; brother Warren Hull; children John Hull and Wendy McCabe; and grandchildren Isaac Hull, Damaris McDonald and Ursula McCabe.