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Nov.†4, 2009

Vol. 110, No. 4

It is criminal to destroy information, no matter how insignificant (“Manhattan Project notebooks hold a secret — radioactivity,” Notebook, Oct. 7). There may be many researchers who may disagree with the Woodrow Wilson School student who made the decision. †

The books should have been scanned, photocopied, or microfilmed before discarding. This would have preserved the information, but not the radioactivity.

Sandor Barcza ’60
Mountain Lakes, N.J.

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2 Responses to Why not save data?

Sandy Kramer '67 Says:

2009-11-11 09:09:32

The destruction of notes concerning the Manhattan Project because the corpus was radioactive is a prime example of Princeton not in the nation's service. As I write, the federal government is disbursing millions of dollars for punitive damages suffered by workers on the Manhattan Project. One of the primary reasons for the awards is that notes and records dealing with the experiments conducted are no longer extant. These funds are being distributed under the aegis of the CDC - National Institute of Occupation Safety and Health. (Further information vis-a-vis this program may be found at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ocas)

Dan Linke, University archivist, Says:

2009-12-02 11:23:13

As the person responsible for choosing what to accept into the University Archives, I did not make this decision lightly. But contrary to both Barcza and Kramerís assumptions, the great majority of the materials were kept. The Archives retained three linear feet of paper records and five uncontaminated notebooks. The contaminated notebooks will remain radioactive for millions of years and posed serious handling risks for both staff and researchers. I made this decision in consultation with others in the University who are experts on the nature of the radiation as well as the historic value of the notebooks. For more information on this, please see our blog entry at: http://blogs.princeton.edu/mudd/2009/07/radioactive_manhattan_project.html
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