By Edward J. Reis
A “Westinghouse Atom Smasher” Pennsylvania roadside historical marker was recently installed at the site of the 1930s Westinghouse Research Laboratories located in Forest Hills, Pennsylvania. The dedication and unveiling ceremony was held on August 28, 2010 with the “Westinghouse Atom Smasher” building standing in the background during the ceremony.
The “Atom Smasher,” as it was commonly called, was designed to create nuclear reactions by bombarding target atoms with a beam of high-energy particles. Capable of accelerating subatomic particles through a vacuum tube at 100 million miles per hour using a controlled 5 million volts, it permitted very precise measurements of the resulting nuclear collisions. The “Westinghouse Atom Smasher” was not intended to make a bomb, but to seek out the secrets of nuclear energy as a source of practical power.
Ed Reis, the Westinghouse Historian at the Senator John Heinz History Center, had submitted the nomination to the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission for this historical marker and it was approved back in 2009. The Westinghouse Electric Company funded the manufacture of the historical marker and the dedication ceremony.
This rather unique, pear-shaped building from 1937 certainly is an early historical artifact from the very beginning of Westinghouse’s ongoing involvement in the nuclear power industry.
Edward J. Reis is the Westinghouse Historian at the Senator John Heinz History Center. From 1998 through 2007 he was the Executive Director of the George Westinghouse Museum.
Many thanks to Mr. Reis for this contribution from the 2010 dedication of the Pennsylvania State Historical Marker. Thanks also for his work in nominating the atom smasher for this honor!