Sharing information related to the early years of Oak Ridge is all in a day’s work for Y‑12 historian Ray Smith. Recently Smith’s flair for historical detail was incorporated in a permanent display on the main campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. Located in LMU’s new Math and Science Building, the display pays tribute to nuclear energy research and the subsequent creation of what is now the U.S. Department of Energy.
Early in the building’s planning stage, LMU board of trustees chairman Autry O.V. “Pete” DeBusk envisioned an exhibit that would inspire future generations of LMU scientists and honor visionary leaders whose ideas were the foundation of work done in Oak Ridge decades ago. Because many LMU alumni, including many classmates of DeBusk, who owns DeRoyal Industries in nearby Powell, have gained employment at DOE facilities in Oak Ridge, DeBusk also wanted the exhibit to recognize and honor DOE, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y‑12.
When DeBusk made known his desire to identify scientists who were catalysts for world change through research related to nuclear energy, a colleague put him in touch with Smith. Smith not only provided suggestions about which scientists DeBusk might wish to feature but also created a timeline of nuclear energy research.
Scientists Debusk selected for the exhibit were Dr. Albert Einstein, Dr. Enrico Fermi, Lt. Gen. Leslie R. Groves, Dr. Ernest O. Lawrence, Dr. Leo Szilard, Dr. Eugene P. Wigner and Dr. Alvin M. Weinberg. The exhibit design called for a photo of each scientist, which DeBusk obtained from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and a summary of each scientist’s achievements. At DeBusk’s request, Smith wrote the summaries.
As his project neared completion, DeBusk also decided to include in the design the timeline Smith had written. “The exhibit would have been incomplete without it,” DeBusk said. “The timeline illustrates so well the impact these seven scientists had on the world, and including it just felt like the perfect way to recognize Ray for his guidance and assistance.”
“When Pete asked me to help recognize the scientific contributions that led to the creation of Oak Ridge and the substantial resulting economic impact on East Tennessee, I was honored to help,” said Smith. “I believe that without Oak Ridge we might not have been able to endure the past 70 years without a World War III and that many scientific discoveries and economic development improvements would not have been realized.”
The “Scientists Who Changed the World” exhibit adorns a wall on the Math and Science Building’s second floor and was unveiled during the building’s October 12, 2012, dedication. Governor Bill Haslam served as the event’s keynote speaker, and Smith was among the honored guests.
During the unveiling ceremony DeBusk presented DOE, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y‑12 representatives plaques of recognition and appreciation. Each plaque includes an inscription that also spans the photo exhibit: “Lincoln Memorial University and the People of Appalachia are forever grateful to the Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y‑12 for decades of support through the provision of jobs to scores of our graduates.”