The calutrons were initially operated by scientists from Berkeley to remove bugs and achieve a reasonable operating rate. Then Tennessee Eastman operators who had only a high-school education took over. Kenneth Nichols compared unit production data, and pointed out to Ernest Lawrence that the young "hillbilly" girl operators were outproducing his Ph.Ds. They agreed to a production race and Lawrence lost, a morale boost for the Tennessee Eastman workers and supervisors. The girls were trained like soldiers not to reason why, while "the scientists could not refrain from time-consuming investigation of the cause of even minor fluctuations of the dials". Responsibility for operation passed entirely to Tennessee Eastman after the spring of 1944, and the Laboratory staff at Oak Ridge turned their attention to redesigning the calutron system for higher efficiency.I think that the reason for the Tennessee Eastman operators' superior production is just a little too pat, especially the "not reasoning why" bit. I wonder if anyone had compared the downtime when the scientists had been at the calutron, versus the operators...
Friday, June 13, 2014
I was vaguely aware of "the Calutron girls", but this io9 post on "ordinary life" at Oak Ridge during WWII brought it back. I thought this Wikipedia anecdote was funny: