Dr. Marvin Wilkening

by George Zamora

SOCORRO – An exhibit of books and photographs focusing on the historic events culminating in the first atomic bomb explosion at Trinity Site is now on display at New Mexico Tech’s Joseph R. Skeen Library.

The display is mostly comprised of items from the Skeen Library’s larger Wilkening Collection — an extensive archive of books, photographs, memoirs, research papers, and artifacts compiled by Dr. Marvin H. Wilkening, professor emeritus of physics and dean emeritus of graduate studies at New Mexico Tech.

The Skeen Library’s procurement of the Wilkening Collection was made possible last year through the concerted efforts of Marvin Wilkening’s daughter, Dr. Laurel Wilkening, and son, Dr. Wes Wilkening.

On December 2, 1942, Marvin Wilkening was still a graduate student at the Illinois Institute of Technology when he joined a group of 41 other scientists being led by Enrico Fermi in achieving the first sustained chain reaction at the University of Chicago.

A group picture of the participating scientists taken shortly after the historic event is included in the current display at the Skeen Library.

A few years later, Wilkening would go on to play a supporting role in the Manhattan Project and would become an eyewitness to the first atomic explosion.

Select items from the Wilkening Collection will be on display at the Skeen Library for the next three months.