Lawrence M. Langer: IU Physicist and Manhattan Project Scientist

While Lawrence M. Langer made an impact at Indiana University’s physics department, his contributions to society go beyond his work as a physics professor at IU. Dr. Langer’s role with the Manhattan Project and the atomic bomb that hit the town of Hiroshima during World War II, played a pivotal point for the Allied powers.

Langer with three other physic professors in 1940 (from left to right, Langer is the third person) helped create the first cyclotron at Indiana University. P0032291

Lawrence M. Langer was born in New York in 1913. He received his B.S.(1934) and PhD (1938), both from NYU in physics. In 1938, Langer joined the Indiana University faculty in the physics department where he helped create IU’s first cyclotron. As WWII progressed, Langer was excused from his duties at IU to join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology radar project in 1941, then moving on to to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in 1943 to participate in the atomic bomb project. He served as the group leader and was the first of IU’s faculty to be recruited for the project.

1945 may have marked one of the most important years of Langer’s life. Langer supervised the trial drops of dummy bombs by Enola Gay (the plane used to drop the atomic bomb at Hiroshima) at Saipan. He also trained an Army officer for the mission, because the military would not permit a civilian to carry out the mission.

On the night before the Enola Gay mission, Langer wanted to make sure that everything stayed in place. He had feared that the military police and possibly others would become curious and cause problems for the bomb. For this reason, he stayed on the plane, and guarded the bomb on the evening before the mission was to take place. Eventually as Langer became tired, he slept on top of the bomb. In the morning everything was properly intact.

Following the Hiroshima misson, Langer returned to Bloomington and served as faculty member in the physics department until 1979. During his time there, he published many works and inspired his students in the field of science. Langer resided in Bloomington until his death in 2000.

Langer was a beloved faculty member at Indiana University, but many outside of the school community, remember him for his contributions to the Allies during WWII.

If you would like to learn more about Langer, contact the IU Archives to make an appointment to view the Lawrence Langer papers. There is a plethora of materials including WWII military documents, newspaper clippings, and Langer’s academic work.

Diversity in the Historical Record – The Dean of Faculties records

African Americans are often underrepresented in American archival collections, a fact which the archival profession acknowledges. In her 2012 article “The Heart of the Matter: The Development of African American Archives” in The American Archivist, Rabia Gibbs states:

“To develop authentic, sustainable, and meaningful initiatives, we must set aside our assumptions, examine the diversity within diverse groups, and modify our objectives to incorporate the full range of perspectives available within these respective communities. Diverse and comprehensive representation in different types of collections is a luxury taken for granted by the social majority represented in mainstream archives; it is a right that should be afforded to the groups to which we, as a profession, aspire to give a broader voice.”

Camilla Williams, late 1980’s or early 1990’s

While the Indiana University Archives holds records from the Office of African American AffairsOmega Psi Phi Fraternity, and faculty members such as Camilla Williams of the Jacobs School of Music, documentation about the African American experience at Indiana University is often sparse. It is through broad administrative collections such as the President’s Office and the Dean of the Faculties records that researchers are sometimes able to fill in some of the gaps.

Recently processed, one of the Dean of Faculties collections has a plethora of information ranging from 1946-1982 (in particular from the late 1960s to the 1970s). It includes records predominantly from the tenure of Ralph C. Collins (1959-1963), Ray L. Heffner, Jr. (1964-1966), Joseph L. Sutton (1966-1968), Joseph R. Hartley (1968-1969), and Henry H. H. Remak (1969-1974) and consists of correspondence, reports, committee files, minutes, and memos which document the development of new departments and policies, administrative policies and procedures concerning faculty members, and curriculum development. Of particular relevance to African American history at IU are records related to the development of academic and cultural programs in response to the implementation of diversity and affirmative action policies at the university.

African American Soul Revue , 1982.

As an example, files within the Dean of Faculties records document the development of Afro-American Affairs at Indiana University including courses and student organizations. As affirmative action policies were introduced, Indiana University sought to attract more black faculty and increase student enrollment, while at the same time ensuring that they felt comfortable and engaged within the campus community. As outlined by a pamphlet from 1973, this emerged through the development of the Black Culture Center, the Afro-American Tutorial Program, and student organizations such

African American Dance Company, 1982.

as the Soul Revue which became one of the three student groups to make up the African American Arts Institute. The institute now includes the African American Dance Company and the African American Choral Ensemble. Today these three accomplished ensembles continue to perform in the community, and travel regionally and even abroad.

As archivists we are always trying to diversify our collections. If you happen to know of any manuscripts that relate to student life (in particular to the life of minorities) at Indiana University please do not hesitate to contact the University Archives and consider donating!