In Memoriam: Haskell Sheinberg

In Memoriam: Haskell Sheinberg

We are sad to announce the passing of Haskell Sheinberg in Santa Fe, New Mexico on May 31, 2017. He was ninety-seven years old. As a member of the Special Engineer Detachment (SED), Sheinberg worked at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. At Los Alamos, he helped purify plutonium under the leadership of Arthur Wahl, one of the co-discoverers of plutonium.

Sheinberg was born on December 12, 1919 in Houston, Texas. As a first generation college student, he studied chemical engineering at Rice University. After graduating in 1941, he became a Progress Engineer for the US Navy, supervising shipbuilding.

In an interview for the Voices of the Manhattan Project website, Sheinberg recalled his decision to join the Army. His brother had already been drafted and he desired to "go where there’s action." After basic infantry training, Sheinberg was sent to Oak Ridge and then Los Alamos in late 1944.

In his interview, he remembered his first impression of the New Mexico scenery: “It is totally different than living in the flat lands of Houston; you have mountains and everything and a beautiful sight.”

At Los Alamos, Sheinberg worked in powder metallurgy, ceramics and particle technology. One of his group’s projects was the construction of hydrogen bomb components for the Bravo test.

Next to fathering two sons, he regarded his most important achievement as developing nuclear rocket propulsion engines for a non-weapons program called Rover.

Sheinberg was a creative engineer, who held twenty-six domestic and foreign patents. He remained modest in discussing his accomplishments, noting “rarely did a person complete a big project by himself. It was always with the help of somebody else.” This viewpoint reflected his belief to “make everybody your teacher and be both a student and a teacher, because you learn from everybody.”

Sheinberg met his wife, Beatrice Freeman, on a blind date at a recreational hall dance. After the war, they married and had two sons. Sheinberg had a long and prestigious career at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and in 2005, he had a conference room named in his honor.

For more information about Haskell Sheinberg's life, read his obituary in the Albuquerque Journal. To listen to Sheinberg’s oral history, please click here.