Bertrand Goldschmidt was born in Paris in 1912. He earned a PhD at the Radium Institute, where he also served as Marie Curie’s last personal assistant before she died in 1934.
During World War II, Goldschmidt lost his position as professor at the Radium Institute when the Vichy government forbade Jews from holding academic positions. Goldschmidt then became the sole Frenchman to participate in the Manhattan Project. He collaborated with Glenn Seaborg at the University of Chicago to improve on plutonium extraction in 1942 and then joined the Anglo-Canadian project, directing the Chemistry Division in Chalk River.
After returning to France in 1946, Goldschmidt helped found the French Commissariat a l'Energie Atomique (CEA; Atomic Energy Commission) and, until 1960, directed its Chemistry Division, which was responsible for plutonium and uranium extraction. During these years, he developed the basic solvent extraction process that is still widely used. Then Goldschmidt headed the CEA’s International Relations Division until his retirement, becoming a renowned authority in nuclear policy. He wrote numerous volumes on nuclear politics, many translated into English, including Peaceful Nuclear Relations, Atomic Rivals, and The Atomic Complex.
Goldschmidt also served as the French Governor on the Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1958 to 1980 and Chairman of this Board in 1980. He was also awarded the “Atoms for Peace” award in 1967.
Bertrand Goldschmidt died in Paris on June 11th, 2002 at the age of 89.
Larson Collection interview