Walter Zinn

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Walter Zinn
Born December 10, 1906
Kitchener, Ontario
Died February 14, 2000(2000-02-14) (aged 93)
Clearwater, Florida
Fields Nuclear physics
Institutions University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory
Manhattan Project
Alma mater Queen’s University
Columbia University (Ph.D) (1934)
Notable awards Atoms for Peace Award (1960)
Enrico Fermi Award (1969)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1970)

Walter Henry Zinn (December 10, 1906 – February 14, 2000) was a nuclear physicist at the University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory.

Life and work[edit]

Zinn worked on the Manhattan Project, and is credited with starting the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear reaction by withdrawing a control rod from the world’s first nuclear reactor on December 2, 1942 at the University of Chicago.[1]

Born in Canada, Zinn graduated from Queen’s University with a mathematics degree, and went on to do his Ph.D. in nuclear physics at Columbia University. He graduated in 1934.

Zinn (standing) presses the button that closes down the Chicago Pile-3 unit for good.

After his work on the Manhattan Project, he became the director of the Argonne National Laboratory from 1946-1956. He developed and built several new reactor designs, including Experimental Breeder Reactor I - the first nuclear reactor to produce electric power on December 20, 1951.

In 1955 Zinn was elected as the first president of the American Nuclear Society (ANS).[2]

Zinn received multiple awards for his work, including a special commendation from the United States Atomic Energy Commission (1956), the Atoms for Peace Award (1960), the Enrico Fermi Award (1969), and the Elliott Cresson Medal from The Franklin Institute (1970).[3]

Walter H. Zinn Award[edit]

The American Nuclear Society (ANS), Operations and Power Division, annually awards their "Walter H. Zinn Award" to recognize an individual "for a notable and sustained contribution to the nuclear power industry that has not been widely recognized." This award was created in 1976.[4][5]


  1. ^ "Walter Zinn 1907 - 2000". Canadian Nuclear Society. Retrieved February 14, 2011. 
  2. ^ "A Brief History of the American Nuclear Society". American Nuclear Society. Retrieved February 14, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Franklin Laureate Database - Elliott Cresson Medal Laureates". Franklin Institute. Retrieved February 15, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Walter H. Zinn Award". American Nuclear Society. Retrieved February 14, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Walter H. Zinn Award recipients". Honors and Awards, Recipients. American Nuclear Society. Retrieved March 28, 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]