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Chapter 9: Global Outreach

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Alex Zucker served the Laboratory for more than 40 years both as an eminent physicist and a skilled administrator. His career culminated in 1988 when he was appointed acting Laboratory director, replacing his long-time associate Herman Postma, who assumed the post of senior vice president of Martin Marietta Energy Systems, Inc. Before becoming acting director, Zucker had been an associate director for the physical sciences for years. 

Alex Zucker

Zucker left his mark on the Laboratory in many ways. As a physicist, he conducted pioneering research in nuclear physics in the early 1950s at ORNL's 63-inch cyclotron, which he helped design. There they observed 20 new nuclear reactions, such as the fusion of nitrogen nuclei and the formation of the heavier nuclei of fluorine, sodium, and aluminum by bombardment of oxygen and carbon targets with beams of nitrogen nuclei. 

The results of their nitrogen fusion studies eased the fear that detonation of a hydrogen bomb might set Earth's atmosphere on fire. 

As a manager, he was instrumental in bringing many Laboratory projects to fruition, helping to overcome formidable administrative and budgetary hurdles. His managerial skills, for example, helped bring into being the Holifield Heavy Ion Research Facility and the High Temperature Materials Laboratory. Zucker also lent an administrative hand to acquiring funding for the Laboratory's proposed new research reactor, the Advanced Neutron Source. 

A native of what is now Croatia, he received a B.A. degree in physics from the University of Vermont and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in physics from Yale University. He came to the Laboratory in 1950 and spent his first 20 years conducting nuclear physics experiments and studying reaction mechanisms and the scattering of heavy ions and protons. 

Throughout his career, Zucker has influenced not only the Laboratory's specific agenda but broad trends in U.S. science. He served as executive director of the Environmental Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences/National Academy of Engineering between 1970 and 1972, has been a member of the editorial advisory board of Science magazine, is chairman of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers National Laboratory Technology Transfer Committee, and is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. 

Zucker left the Laboratory in the spring of 1992 to become special advisor to Clyde Hopkins, president of Energy Systems at the time (and also a former ORNL administrator). He retired in January 1993. 

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