University Archives


Moe Berg Notes on Nuclear Particles, Having Worked On Project Larson

9pp typed, measuring 8.5" x 11", Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, dated January 24, 1963. An article typed on Westinghouse stationery, entitled "Simple Structure of Nuclear Particles Proposed by Westinghouse Physicist." Throughout the first three pages, Berg has underlined certain sections and made notes in the margins in pencil, dating these notes on January 25, 1963. An excerpt from the article with Berg's notations is as follows:

"These new, heavy, short-lived particles -- called mesons and hyperons [here Berg has written "mesons hyperons" in the margin] -- now account for most of the known entities linked to the atom's nucleus. All of them have average lifetimes of less than a millionth of a second. They have so complicated the originally simple concept of the atom that many physicists believe that matter cannot be as complex as it now appears and are seeking a simpler explanation of its structure…This simple system first proposed by the Westinghouse physicist in a paper in the 'Physical Review' in July, 1961, is shown to have the basic properties of the so-called neutral pi meson (π⁰), including its mass, decay behavior, lifetime, size, spin and parity. This meson is considered a key particle in explaining nuclear structure. It is thought to be present in the nucleus of the atom, where it supplies the 'glue', or nuclear force, which holds the nucleus together."

The scientific article accounts for four pages, while the remaining five pages are "Background Information, Westinghouse Press Release: 'Based on technical Paper: Electron-Pair Interpretation of the Pion Interaction and the Structure of Heavy Mesons, E.J. Sternglass, Westinghouse Research Laboratories; presented before the American Physical Society…" All nine pages have been stapled together with two staples at the top left corner. With light edge toning. A few areas of pencil smudging. The document comes with a copy of a JSA Auction Letter of Authenticity, authenticated February 12, 2016.

In 1943, Moe Berg was recruited by the Office of Strategic Services to travel overseas and spy on the German atomic bomb program. Berg's gift for languages and high intelligence made him an idea pick, and he was selected for a special mission codenamed "Project Larson". Berg's task was to interview top Italian physicists to determine what they knew about the existence of a German bomb program. Berg began his mission in 1944, having traveled to Italy to meet with physicists Edoardo Amaldi and Gian Carlo Wick, who denied having done any atomic research for the Germans. They also stated their doubts as to the success the Germans would have even if they had a nuclear plan in place. The following year, Berg was ordered to attend a lecture in Zurich where German physicist Werner Heisenberg would be speaking. The mission dictated that Berg was to shoot Heisenberg if there were any indications that the Germans were working on the bomb. On December 18, 1944 Berg sat quietly in the back of the auditorium with a pistol in his pocket and a cyanide tablet on his person. Luckily for both me, Heisenberg revealed nothing about a German nuclear program. With little gained during his time abroad, Berg returned to the United States on April 25, 1945, and resigned from the Strategic Services Unit that August.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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