Open main menu

Edward Bernard Grothus (June 28, 1923 – February 12, 2009) was an American machinist and technician at the Los Alamos National Laboratory during the 1950s and 1960s.[1] In later life he became the owner of a surplus store which he used as a base for peace and anti-nuclear activism.[2]

Edward Bernard Grothus
Ed Grothus.jpg
Ed Grothus, November 2007
Born(1923-06-28)June 28, 1923
Clinton, Iowa
DiedFebruary 12, 2009(2009-02-12) (aged 85)
Los Alamos, New Mexico
ResidenceLos Alamos, New Mexico, United States
Known forPolitical Activism, Anti-Nuclear Activism, Pro-Solar
Scientific career
InstitutionsLos Alamos National Laboratory
The Black Hole, 2009
Organic Plutonium.jpg


Weapons specialistEdit

Originally, Grothus built rifles and machine guns at the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois.[3]

He arrived in Los Alamos on March 23, 1949.[2][4] Initially, Grothus worked for 2 years as a machinist and then 18 years as a technician in the R-Site weapons development group. This involved working with depleted uranium and taking measurements for studies on the hydrodynamics of test implosions.

He said his work contributed to the creation of bombs 30 times smaller and 30 times more powerful than those used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki—an increase from 15 kilotons to 475 kilotons in a nuclear package the size of a bowling ball.[4]

On December 1, 1969[2] Grothus quit the lab to pursue his business and activism interests full-time.

Shopkeeper and peace activistEdit

In 1951,[4] while still working at the lab, Grothus founded the Los Alamos Sales Company, known to all as "The Black Hole" (because "everything goes in and nothing comes out"). It is a "thrift shop" of old scientific equipment that he has collected from the National Laboratory over the past decades. Ed could be seen often shopping at another Los Alamos thrift shop, Casa Mesita.

Originally, the business had no permanent home as Grothus sold unwanted lab items purchased at auction to universities and researchers. In 1976 the store found its present home in a 17,000-square-foot (1,600 m2) converted Piggly Wiggly grocery store Grothus and his wife Margaret purchased.[4] His objective for the Black Hole was to recycle scientific equipment for use in peaceful endeavors and to serve as a base to campaign for nuclear disarmament. Grothus predicted that there would be a nuclear holocaust in 2013.[5]

For a while Grothus sold cans of supposed "organic plutonium", affixing mushroom cloud wrappers to cans of soup. He mailed a free sample to the White House, earning him a visit from the Secret Service.[5]

When walking into the gymnasium sized warehouse filled with piles of old computers, function generators, lock in amplifiers, microscopes and piles of wires and cables, a sign on the door reads:

One bomb is too many
No one is secure unless everyone is secure
Don't throw anything away
Welcome to The Black Hole

Documentary filmsEdit

Grothus is the subject of three documentaries. The first, Atomic Ed and the Black Hole was produced in 2002 and broadcast in the United States on HBO.[6] The second, focusing on Los Alamos as a whole, was a German production called Los Alamos und die Erben Der Bombe.[7] The third, Laboratory Conditions, is a short film available for free on the internet.[8]

Visitors to The Black Hole have captured video content and added it to places like YouTube.[9][10]

Ed also has two large granite obelisks to document the development of atomic bombs.[11]


Grothus has received a number of awards and other recognition including:

2006 Nuclear Free Future Lifetime Achievement[12] for his ongoing activism speaking out against nuclear weapons and nuclear power - where the risks and decommissioning costs are significant.

2006 Indigenous World Uranium Summit, Lifetime Achievement[13] for promoting a nuclear-free future through his work.[14]

2007 Allan Hauser Memorial Award.[15] for his demonstrated artistic success and community involvement.

Mike Daisey - If You See Something Say Something.[16] where Mike Daisey talks about his visits to Trinity Site, The Bradbury Science Museum and his "Welcome to the Black Hole".

National Public Radio (NPR) feature titled "At 85, 'Atomic Ed' Is Still Ticking Off Los Alamos"[17] which described Ed's ongoing buying, selling and saving of "nuclear waste" and his desire to find a location for his twin 40 ton granite monuments - the Rosetta Stones for the Nuclear Age.


Grothus died on February 12, 2009, from colon cancer.[18]

In an email correspondence prior to his death, Ed wrote, "My body is wracked with cancer tumors. My mind is wracked with the horrible visions of a very possible nuclear holocaust."[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The Black Hole of Los Alamos: website.
  2. ^ a b c Fear and Fallout in Los Alamos: Mother Jones website.
  3. ^ Ed Grothus And The Doomsday Stones: MyWire website.
  4. ^ a b c d Anti-nuke activist works for new legacy for birthplace of A-bomb Archived 2006-11-11 at the Wayback Machine: Kyodo News website.
  5. ^ a b c Gusterson, Hugh. "The legacy of Ed Grothus and the Black Hole", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 2008-12-18. Retrieved on 2009-02-13.
  6. ^ Atomic Ed & The Black Hole Archived 2011-05-01 at the Wayback Machine: Mobilus Media website.
  7. ^ Los Alamos und die Erben Der Bombe (Los Alamos and Inheriting The Bomb): ‹See Tfd›(in German) website.
  8. ^ Laboratory Conditions (downloadable film): Coudal Partners website.(Requires Apple QuickTime installed)
  9. ^ asterpix video from YouTube (YouTube)asterpix video website.
  10. ^ acceptance speech on YouTube Lifetime of activism in Los Alamos speech website.
  11. ^ The Doomsday Stones on YouTube Message from Ed website.
  12. ^ Nuclear Free Future Archived 2008-08-07 at the Wayback Machine:Nuclear Free Future website.
  13. ^ [1] Archived 2008-12-03 at the Wayback Machine:Indigenous World Uranium Summit and Nuclear Free Future Award website.
  14. ^ Lowry, David (March 24, 2009). "Ed Grothus: US atomic worker turned maverick anti-nuclear activist". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
  15. ^ Allan Hauser Memorial Award Archived 2008-06-13 at the Wayback Machine: Governors Award for Excellence in the Arts website.
  16. ^ Mike Daisey[permanent dead link]: Mike Dasiey mp3 performance website.
  17. ^ NPR: NPR - Feature by John Burnett website.
  18. ^ Vorenberg, Sue (February 13, 2009). "Ed Grothus, 1923-2009: Activist used humor to raise awareness". The Santa Fe New Mexican. Archived from the original on September 12, 2012. Retrieved 2009-08-04.

External linksEdit