Chicago Tribune

Last witness revisits dawn of nuclear age

CHICAGO - For Ted Petry, working under the stands at the University of Chicago's Stagg Field was his first job out of high school and a good one, considering there was a war on.

"They came to the high school, and they were recruiting," he said. "The fact that there were no jobs available at the time, you took it."

Petry was drawn by the promise of some $90 a month and the proximity to his South Side home. What the recruiter didn't mention, probably didn't know, was that the Tilden Technical High School graduate would become part of scientific history in that improvised laboratory, shaping the building blocks and even fetching the uranium for the inaugural human-made nuclear reactor.

Seventy-five years ago Saturday, on Dec. 2, 1942, the graphite bricks he helped plane into shape and assemble into a pile under the direction of physicist Enrico

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