Joseph R. Dietrich served as president of the American Nuclear Society from 1977-1978. Dr. Dietrich was internationally known for a pioneering career in nuclear power reactor development that spanned more than thirty years. He was a natural leader in a quiet, reflective way. At heart a scientist and a thinker he was moved more by the power of logic that the desire for power. He was widely respected for his judgment, for his ability to get to the technical heart of the matter, for this lack of bias, and for his knack of dealing with people who had opposing views and getting them to settle their differences. A pragmatic physicist, he combined an intimate knowledge of the theory of reactors and the engineering details of reactor design and construction that was rarely matched.
He began his nuclear career in 1946, when he joined the Daniels Pile development project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. In 1948, he moved to Argonne National Laboratory, where he was in charge of reactor physics and shielding design for the prototype nuclear power plant for the Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine. At Argonne he was also in charge of the planning, theory, and experimental instrumentation for the BORAX experiments, at the conclusion of which he directed the physics work for the experimental boiling water reactor. During 1953-54, Dietrich took part in the first large-scale reactor safety experiments at the National Reactor Testing Station.
In 1956, with the founding of General Nuclear Engineering Corporation, he joined the company as a vice president. Later, after the company had been purchased by Combustion Engineering, Inc., Dietrich became chief scientist in Combustion Engineering's Nuclear Power Systems Division, a position he held until his retirement in February 1980.
In addition to serving as president of the American Nuclear Society, Dietrich served on the Society's Board of Directors from 1958 to 1961, and again from 1977 to 1980.
Joseph R. Dietrich, ANS Fellow, died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) on November 4, 1982 at the age of 68.
Last updated July 30, 2014, 11:31am CDT