First UT Graduate in Statistics Shares Manhattan Project Experiences

 

KNOXVILLE — The first person to graduate with a statistics degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will be speaking at this year’s Secret City Festival June 19 in Oak Ridge.

Jane Greer Puckett could not get into the UT’s engineering program because of her gender so she enrolled in the College of Business Administration and studied statistics, along with mathematics and physics. She graduated in August 1943 and went on to play an integral role in the advance of nuclear science.

Puckett was what some call a “calutron girl.” Calutron girls were the women involved in the early days of the electromagnetic separation of uranium 235 at Y-12 during the Manhattan Project.

It may be argued that Puckett was the calutron girl. She set up the process and taught the other calutron girls how to take statistical data on the calutrons.

After graduation, Puckett was employed as a statistician by Tennessee Eastman Corp. in Oak Ridge. She was immediately assigned to the Y-12 Electromagnetic Separation Plant’s Building 9731. The building was the “pilot building” and was used for training and testing operations for obtaining Uranium 235 by the electromagnetic process.

Puckett said she counts this period of time working in Y-12′s Building 9731 as among the most important contributions she has made in her lifetime.

Puckett will share her experiences with the public on June 19 as she serves as the hostess for tours of Building 9731. One particular memory she will speak of includes learning the mysterious man watching her compile calutron data was Gen. Leslie Groves, the leader in charge of the Manhattan Project.

The Secret City Festival is an event to showcase Oak Ridge’s diversity through cultural events and activities for people of all ages. The festival promotes the history of the city and unites its World War II heritage with the technological advancements that are ongoing within the Oak Ridge.

Tours of Y-12 will last approximately one hour. Shuttle buses to the tour will leave from the American Museum of Science and Energy to the Y-12 New Hope Center. Visitors also can drive to the Y-12 New Hope Center to begin a tour.

For information on the Y-12 public tour, visit http://www.y12.doe.gov/news/events/y12publictour.php.

C O N T A C T :

Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460, wholmes7@utk.edu)

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