Over the past couple of days, we’ve learned about the father of the Forest Hills Halloween parade, two “men on the moon,” and other groundbreaking scientists who helped settle this part of DC 90 to 100 years ago. Here’s the final installment of the series.
by Ann Kessler
There are just two remaining National Bureau of Standards (NBS) scientists on our list of early residents of Forest Hills who were charter members of the Forest Hills Citizens Association: Dr. Fred L. Mohler and Joseph G. Ludewig.
Dr. Frederick L. Mohler, 2853 Brandywine St. NW
Dr. Mohler was an atomic physicist who played a small part in the development of the atomic bomb. In October 1939, he provided technical guidance to the Briggs’ Advisory Committee on Uranium that was chaired by the Director of the NBS, Lyman J. Briggs. President Roosevelt appointed this Committee after he received the famous Einstein-Szilard letter in August 1939 which warned him about the possibility of Germany developing an atomic bomb. Attendees of the meeting included Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Alexander Sachs, and Eugene Wigner. Albert Einstein had been invited but could not attend.
Among the results of the meeting were the beginning of a discussion on the possibility of an atomic weapon, an awareness of a need to acquire uranium, and federal funds being appropriated to support atomic research at universities and institutional laboratories.
Dr. Mohler himself spent World War II as a member of the operations analysis section of the 9th Bomber Command, Army Air Force, in Europe. For his service he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, recently created by President Truman, in November 1946. His citation said that Dr. Mohler had created a system for the analysis of the accuracy of the military’s bombing. After World War II Mohler served as Chief of the Atomic Physics section of NBS and acting chief of the mass spectrometry section.
Joseph G. Ludewig, 4609 30th St. NW
And finally, a National Bureau of Standards employee who was not a physicist, but a talented machinist and instrument maker. He worked not only with Thomas A. Edison on an electric motor, but also with Dr. Samuel P. Langley. Ludewig and his brother William were Pittsburgh machinists when Dr. Langley, then at the Allegheny Observatory, asked them to build prototypes of a rubber band propeller plane in 1887. Joseph was again an instrument maker for Langley at the Astro-Physical Observatory at the Smithsonian Institution in the 1890s and designed the forerunner of the wind tunnel. He had moved to the NBS by 1903 and in 1911 helped invent the variable inductor for electrical circuits there. He retired from the NBS in 1930, and died in 1953.
Joseph Ludewig had bought one and a-half acres of property on 30th Street from Louis P. Shoemaker in 1905, the same time as Hobart C. Dickinson’s purchase.
Together as neighbors (along with Lawrence Kirk) they appealed to the city to fix the grading on 30th Street between Brandywine Street and Grant Road in 1908. The city filed their appeal in the “suburban improvement file” (for this area was considered suburban at the time) stating that money would need to be appropriated for the fill of 10 to 15 feet at that intersection.
These National Bureau of Standards scientists must have found living in a newly-settled neighborhood near their place of work convenient. But they must also have loved living here. They all raised their families and stayed in their homes through their retirements from NBS. Forest Hills was more than a convenience, it was their home.
“Biography of William F. Meggers,” American Institute of Physics Finding Aid. http://www.aip.org/history/ead/19990074.html
Carl Clarence Kiess. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Clarence_Kiess
Einstein Szilard Letter. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einstein%E2%80%93Szil%C3%A1rd_letter
Foote, Paul D. William Frederick Meggers 1888-1966: A Biographical Memoir. Washington: National Academy of Sciences, 1970. http://www.nasonline.org/publications/biographical-memoirs/memoir-pdfs/meggers-william.pdf
For American ice Company,” Washington Times, Sept. 10, 1905.
Harvey, Allan H. Thermodynamic Properties of Water and Steam for Power Generation. http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/sp958-lide/049-052.pdf
“J.G. Ludewig Dies; Helped Dr. Langley,” Washington Post, Feb. 12, 1953, p. 26.
“Joseph Ludewig Dies; Built Langley Plane and Assisted Edison, Evening Star, Feb. 10, 1953, p. 11.
Kiess (crater). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiess_%28crater%29
MacPherson, Myra. “Harvest on Brandywine: Not far From the Madding Crowd – Peace,” Washington Post Times Herald, June 13, 1971, p.G1.
“Medal of Freedom is Given to Mohler for War Work,” Evening Star, Nov. 25, 1946, p. 25.
Meggers, W. F.; Kiess, C.C. and F. J. Stimson. Practical Spectrographic Analysis. http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015086551143;view=1up;seq=1 http://nvlpubs.nist.gov/nistpubs/ScientificPapers/nbsscientificpaper444vol18p235_A2b.pdf
Meggers, William F. Papers. Available at: http://www.aip.org/history/ead/19990074.html)
Meggers Family. Home Movies. Available at: http://libserv.aip.org:81/ipac20/ipac.jsp?uri=full=3100001~!5809!0&profile=newcustom-icos )
Schooley, Jim. “William F. Meggers; Dean of American Spectroscopists,” Standards Alumni Association, National Institute of Standards and Technology, NBS/NIST Culture of Excellence Series. 2008. http://www.nist.gov/director/saa/nist-culture-of-excellence-article-6.cfm
Sullivan, Barry. “Introducing the Meggers Family: (They Collect Just About Anything You Can Name),” Washington Post, Feb. 23, 1941, p. P5.
“William Frederick Meggers,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Frederick_Meggers
“William Meggers,” American Institute of Physics. Array of Contemporary American Physicists. http://aip.org/history/acap/biographies/bio.jsp?meggersw