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Obituary: Philip Morrison.

Byline: Philip Morrison

IT WAS the most malignant weapon created by man, but it still needed a sure touch to realise its dreadful potential.

And young Philip Morrison sat in the back seat of a Dodge car being driven through the desert night with a case by his side. Inside the case, which had been fitted with protective rubber bumpers as a precuation, was the plutonium core of a bomb to be tested at dawn near Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Also on the seat was the walking cane, which Morrison had needed since the age of four when he contracted polio, allowing him long periods of isolation to think beyond the normal realms of childhood.

With a colleague, Morrison was to place the two plutonium hemispheres inside the device, called 'the gadget', which they were to explode in a tower.

This Trinity Test on July 16, 1945, was a success. So Morrison and other scientists from the Manhattan Project went to Tinian in the north Pacific to assemble 'Fat Boy', the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, effectively ending World War II.

Later, from the air, Morrison viewed the site of Hiroshima, site of the first of the two bombs used against Japan. 'There was just one flat, rust-red scar and no green or grey because there were no roofs of vegetation left ... Another war cannot be allowed,' he wrote.

Thus, the physicist came to oppose the bomb, which he had helped to father.

Morrison was brought up in Pittsburgh. During the illness, his father gave him a crystal radio, opening his interest in the possibilities of science, which took him to the Carnegie Institute of Technology, where he graduated in physics, before advancing to the University of California to study theoretical physicis under Robert Oppenheimer, later director of the Los Alamos laboratory, centre of the Manhattan Project.

After the war, Morrison took a post at Cornell University, New York. In 1964 he moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he became Professor of Physics.

Although his earlier Communist sympathies dogged his career, Morrison, who married twice, was a prolific writer Philip Morrison, physicist; Born November 7, 1915, died April 25, 2005
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 2, 2005
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