Lloyd Albert Quarterman was born in Philadelphia on May 31, 1918. As a young boy he soon discovered his passion for science and spent many hours working with chemistry sets. When he was older during the 1930’s, Quarterman went to college at St. Augustines in Raleigh, North Carolina. It was here that Quarterman not only developed a reputation for science, but also for his abilities on the football field. He earned his bachelors degree in 1943.
Immediately following graduation Quarterman was hired by the United States War Department. He was one of only six African Americans to be involved with research for the atomic bomb. His official title was an assistant to an associate research scientist and chemist. It is not known what his exact duties were because those who worked on the Manhattan Project were sworn to secrecy. Many different teams were involved with the building and completion of the atomic bomb. Quarterman worked on the teams at Columbia University in New York City and at the University of Chicago in Illinois.
It was on this team at the University of Chicago that the atom was first split, creating nuclear fission. Quarterman occasionally worked along side Albert Einstein to help create uranium isotopes. These were necessary for uranium gas, which made fission possible. This project was very secretive and also became known as the plutonium project. It was under this project that the first nuclear reactor, pile, was built. This is the most essential part of modern nuclear power plants. In 1945 when W.W.II ended, Quarterman was recognized with a certificate from the US War Department for helping to bring the war to an end.
This Chicago team became known as Argonne National Laboratories. This lab, funded by the University of Chicago, but no longer secretly, searched for peaceful uses for nuclear energy. Quarterman remained involved with this team for the next 30 years. During this time he also studied quantum mechanics. This helped to strengthen his ability as a scientist. In 1952, because of his dedication and hard work, he earned a Masters of Science from Northwestern University.