Category Archives: Moe Berg

RR Auction Moe Berg Hand Notated Manuscript

RR Autograph Auction Moe BergHand-notated manuscript, seven pages, 9 x 14, dated December 26, 1944. Notations in Berg’s hand are in red pencil, with remaining pencil notations and diagrams in the hand of Swiss physicist Paul Scherrer.

On the first page, numbered in the upper right by Berg with a circled “1” in red, headed by Berg “(explanation of content of U).” The atomic symbol for Uranium is U. Its atomic number is 92 and atomic weight is 238.02891. Scherrer has circled in regular pencil “+ 92,” underlined “238” and written “~100%.” Beneath this, he’s circled another “+92” and penciled “235” and “1/140.” Scherrer has drawn a rectangle around this line and written a third line of a circled “+92,” “234” and “1/10000.” The World Health Organization notes that ‘Natural uranium consists of a mixture of three radioactive isotopes identified by the mass numbers 238U, 235U, and 234U. Uranium 238, uranium’s most common isotope, can be converted into Plutonium 239, a fissionable material that can also be used as a fuel in nuclear reactors.

Uranium 239 first decays into Neptunium 239, further decaying into Plutonium 239. Scheerer has drawn a diagram in the center of the page, labeling “U 239” and drawing a box around the name “Nier.” Alfred O. C. Nier was the first to separate Uranium 235 from Uranium 238. In the lower third of the page, Scherrer has drawn and labeled diagrams and, at the lower edge, has written “U 235 + n = Sr + Xe + 2-3 n,” circling the final “n” and drawing an arrow to it labeled “chain reaction.” Berg has also written “chain reaction.”

The next five pages have drawings and mathematical equations ostensibly diagramming atomic chain reactions. Berg has labeled one of Scherrer’s diagrams “aerodynamics another subject” and identified two of Scherrer’s words as “Prandle” and “Exterman of Geneva.” Thorium, written by both Berg and Scherrer, is a source of nuclear power. In very good condition, with edge tears and creases, a couple fragile hinges, and a light central vertical fold.

After parts of seventeen seasons in the big leagues, Berg was hired by the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, as an international spy. His mission was to seek knowledge concerning Germany’s progress in the development of atomic weapons, resulting in his traveling to Europe to meet with Scherrer, the director of physics at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. During their meetings, while Berg would diagram the game of baseball, Scherrer would diagram atomic chain reactions—pages like this that were then gathered by Berg and sent to America for analysis. Through his research and diagrams, Scherrer had estimated that Germany was two to ten years away from production of a nuclear warhead. A unique look into the espionage activities of this most unexpected spy. Provenance: The Moe Berg Collection, Lelands, 2006 Pre-certified Steve Grad/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.

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Posted by on June 7, 2013 in Moe Berg


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