Just before Thanksgiving, U.S. Representative Sean Casten (IL-06) entered the name of longtime friend-of-the-Bulletin, Dr. Dieter M. Gruen, into the Congressional Record by nominating him for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The nomination took place on November 21st, Dr. Gruen’s 97th birthday.
“At 97, Dr. Gruen still sees the world as a place of vast opportunities for technological innovation. His optimism has been a source of inspiration and encouragement in my work as a Member of Congress as we tackle critical issues facing our society,” Congressman Casten stated in support of Dr. Gruen’s nomination. The nomination process, spearheaded by David Wargowski of the Atomic Photographers Guild with strong support from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, began nearly a year ago and included letters to President Trump encouraging the consideration of Dr. Gruen for the honor.
“Dr. Dieter Gruen’s unrelenting dedication to improve humankind’s quality of life and perseverance in solving future energy challenges is seldom demonstrated by a single individual,“ said David Wargowski, who is also a member of the Bulletin’s Arts Science Initiative. “Dieter’s passion for pure science is superseded only by his ardency for the preservation of our planet.”
Born in 1922, Dr. Gruen left Nazi Germany for the United States at 14, where he attended Northwestern University. Shortly after his graduation, he began work on the Manhattan Project, where he created an entirely new chemical compound that allowed for the eventual extraction of uranium nitrate. Following WWII, he helped form Oak Ridge Scientists and Engineers, a group dedicated to ensuring the future prevention of the use of nuclear weapons in war. Dr. Gruen joined the Argonne National Laboratory in 1947 becoming Senior Scientist and Group Leader in 1960 and Associate Director of the Materials Science Division in 1982. Dr. Gruen occupied this position until 2000 when he returned to full time research. Dr. Gruen became an Argonne Distinguished Fellow, Emeritus in 2012.
“I am delighted to see Dieter honored with this nomination, which is befitting a man of his accomplishments and contributions,” said Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. “His work in alternative energy has resulted in numerous patents and will have an impact that carries forward for generations. I congratulate Dieter on this well-deserved nomination, and am grateful to Congressman Casten for seeing this through.”
Dr. Gruen’s work has consistently dealt with problems in alternative energy including the fields of fission, fusion and solar energy. The novelty of his work through the years resulted in over 60 US patents being granted to him for discoveries in interdisciplinary subjects. Several of these patents were licensed and some have led to the establishment of commercial enterprises that are still in operation. Since becoming Emeritus, Dr. Gruen’s research interests have focused on making solar electricity cheaper.