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Atomic Pioneer Dies

L. Worth Seagondollar at NC State, about 1965. Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries, Historical State collection.

As a junior physicist on a three-man research team, L. Worth Seagondollar helped verify the critical mass of the Plutonium-239 isotope. He was on hand on July 16, 1945 for the Trinity Test in the desert of New Mexico when the first atomic bomb was detonated.

“I hope to God I never see anything like that again,” he said during one of his many recollections of the seminal moment of the nuclear age.

Three weeks later, a similar bomb was detonated over Nagasaki, Japan, effectively ending World War II and bringing Seagondollar’s work with the Manhattan Project to an end.

After completing his doctorate at Wisconsin, the Kansas native found his way to NC State, where he was the head of the physics department from 1965-75. He served as a professor in the department until his retirement in 1991.

On Friday, Seagondollar died at the Raleigh retirement home where he lived with Winifred, his wife of 71 years. He was 92.

Throughout his academic career, Seagondollar participated in the growth of the physics honor society Sigma Pi Sigma, which established the Worth Seagondollar Award for outstanding service in 1999.

A leading nuclear physicist throughout his career, Seagondollar helped build the first Van de Graff particle accelerator during his time as a professor at Kansas.

Known to tool around Raleigh in his red Mini Cooper well into his 90s, Seagondollar was a likeable character who enjoyed a good pun, knew how to hunt for bargains at local yard sales and provided great companionship to his dogs. A memorial service will be announced for a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to a favorite charity in Seagondollar’s name.

Responses (3 Comments)

  • Chueng Ji

    Prof. Seagondollar was kind and peaceful. In my early years at NCSU, he asked me to give a lecture in his nuclear physics class and I enjoyed doing so. It was a great joy to get to know him. He will be dearly missed. – Chueng

  • Rick Liston

    Dr Seagondollar and his wife were neighbor’s in Lake Anne by in 80′s and 90′s. What a nice neighborhood. Many social gatherings.

  • Don Sparlin

    I graduated from KU in 1959 as a B.S. in Engineering Physics. I was also active in SPS during the years preceding. I still vividly recall being given the opportunity to show up at the good doctor’s house one Saturday to wax the floor. I was wearing the usual blue jeans and white bucks. The job was to crawl around the floor while applying RED paste floor wax. My knees hurt to think of it to this day. I had the only red toed white bucks in Lawrence. Never could get that wax out of those shoes. Fondly remembered as truly concerned with undergraduate students. Now retired from many years as Professor of Physics at the Missouri School of Mines/University of Missouri-Rolla/Missouri University of Science and Technology. (All the same University!)

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