Joseph A. Goleb, 85, a research scientist who worked on the Manhattan Project and analyzed moon rocks, died after a heart attack Aug. 26 at Washington Hospital Center. He lived in New Market.
Mr. Goleb, who had only a high school diploma from Chicago's Crane Technical Preparatory School, went to work in 1939 in the laboratory of the Buick aviation defense plant in Melrose Park, Ill. The work sparked his interest in science, and he began taking classes at the University of Chicago, where his professors invited him to work on a war-related task at the university's metallurgical laboratory.
The job turned out to be the Manhattan Project, the federal government's wartime effort to create the world's first nuclear bomb. As a specialist in spectroscopy -- the use of light to study matter -- Mr. Goleb worked with some of the world's best scientific minds, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and four other Nobel Prize winners, as they created the first controlled nuclear chain reaction beneath an abandoned football stadium, Chicago's Stagg Field.
Mr. Goleb was part of the relatively small group of scientists who worked on the Chicago portion of the project, under the highest level of secrecy. He held a "Q" clearance, the Energy Department's top-secret level of access, for more than 50 years.
In 1945, Mr. Goleb received a commendation for his work from Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. After World War II, he was selected by the United Nations to work for the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria, to conduct research and train foreign nationals on the peaceful applications of the atom.
In 1959, he received a college degree, from what is now Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill. The school gave him its alumni achievement award last year.
He continued working for the Department of Energy at Argonne National Laboratory, the successor to the University of Chicago's metallurgical lab, as a chemist. He was on a team that examined the first moon rocks collected by Apollo astronauts. He was also the foreign editor for the Journal of Applied Spectroscopy and held two patents in the field of optical spectroscopy.
In 1973, Mr. Goleb moved to the Washington area. He worked for the Department of Energy until 1976 and then for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. He retired in 1990.
Mr. Goleb, a native of Chetek, Wis., was an avid fan of the NFL's Green Bay Packers.
Survivors include his wife of 58 years, Melvina Goleb of New Market; three children, Amy Kimmel and Paul Goleb, both of North Potomac, and Mark Goleb of Ijamsville; and six grandchildren.