Don Burton

Profile Updated: January 21, 2016
Don Burton
Don Burton


Don Burton


Yes! Attending Reunion
Residing In Los Alamos, NM USA
Spouse/Partner Chong Su "Kyung" Burton
Occupation Physicist
Children Michael, born 1976; Jennifer, born 1979
Military Service US Army Corps of Engineers  

BS, University of Missouri, Rolla MO, 1959-1963
Ph.D., Kansas State University, Manhattan KS, 1963-1968
Captain, US Army Corps of Engineers, 1968-1973
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore CA, 1973-1996
Los Alamos National Laboratory, 1996-present


Donald E. Burton was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on April 24, 1941. He is the son of Charles M. and Alice A. Burton who owned the Burton Floral Shop at 5714 Prospect. He attended Pershing Elementary School. Upon graduation from Southeast HS in June 1959, Don entered the UM-Rolla to study physics, aided by GM and Board of Curators scholarships. There, he participated in the ROTC program and attained the rank of Brigadier General. After three years he graduated and was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers in July 1962. Subsequently, he did graduate work in theoretical physics at Kansas State supported by a NDEA Fellowship. He was awarded a PhD in 1969 for work on the quantum mechanical theory of internal conversion processes for deformed nuclei. There are thought to be no known readers of his dissertation awake today.

Don entered military service in October 1968 and was assigned to the Army Engineer Nuclear Cratering Group, located at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab (LLNL), Livermore, CA, near San Francisco. In September 1969 he was assigned to Korea with the 2d Engineer Battalion (Combat), in which he served as Intelligence and Logistics officers. In November 1970 he was reassigned to the Nuclear Cratering Group.

In September 1973, Don left the army and joined the staff of the Earth Sciences Division at LLNL. There he served at various times as a group leader and project leader, focusing principally on the numerical modeling of nuclear weapon tests and effects. In 1986, he moved to A-Division which is responsible for the design of nuclear secondaries. There he headed the project developing their main computer code for modeling secondary performance.

In a major career move in September 1996, Don left Livermore and joined famous X-Division of the Los Alamos National Lab (LANL). For 10 years, he led a project called Shavano, tasked with creating a new generation of computer codes for simulating full nuclear device performance on massively parallel computers. The project was staffed with about 30 of the best scientists at the laboratory. He is currently a senior scientist doing research in the area of computational physics.

On October 11, 1970, at Camp Petersen, Korea, then Captain Burton married the beautiful and vivacious Im Kyung Ae. For nearly 25 years, she led a relatively quiet life as a housewife and mother of two, contributing occasional newspaper articles and guest radio interviews to local Korean newspapers and stations. These eventually proved so successful that she came to the attention of area Korean politicians, and in 1996 she was elected vice president of the Korean American Association of San Francisco & the Bay Area. This may not seem such a big deal until you know that the organization represents 150,000 Koreans. In 1997 she was appointed by the Korean government to "The Advisory Council on Democratic and Peaceful Unification." She says she was happy to contribute what she could and then bail out to Los Alamos while at the height of her popularity and before an incensed electorate drove her out. In 2012, her Bay Area ties reasserted themselves, and she became president of the non-profit San Francisco Scholarship Foundation.

Unlike her couch potato husband, Kyung was an avid jogger in Livermore and a regular Bay-to-Breakers participant. Since moving to New Mexico, she has settled down to long daily walks. She took up Karaoke but found an indifferent audience here. She continues a long-standing interest in ballroom dance, but the only choice in town is at the Los Alamos Senior Center on Monday night. She finds the retired Manhattan Project scientists charming, but a bit slow for her.

Don & Kyung now reside in Los Alamos. For those who have never been there, Los Alamos is situated near Santa Fe at an altitude of 7500 feet on the side of a hopefully extinct volcano. The ancient lava flow formed several mile-long fingers, which have now become thin mesas towering hundreds of feet above the surrounding canyons. The laboratory is located on one such mesa, the downtown on another, and two more are devoted to housing the 18000 or so inhabitants. The Burton home sits on the very edge of one of these mesas. The view is incomparable with red and golden mesas everywhere, forested Ponderosa canyons below, and the lights of Santa Fe and the Sangre de Christo mountains in the distance! The weather is magnificent and the locale positively enchanting, though the town is hardly a shopper’s Mecca. Los Alamos is regularly ranked among the best places to live in the nation, but the ratings do not account for the thousands of PhD’s who consider themselves to be God’s gift to the world.

Asked why he does not retire, Don’s truthful response is that there is little else to do in town. He plans to continue until they throw the “old geezer” out, which could be anytime now. To escape Los Alamos, the couple travels frequently and has visited nearly 50 countries. This year has been particularly active with trips with the “kids” to South Africa, Zimbabwe, & Botswana last December, and 3 weeks in Alaska & Canada in July. A 3-week cruise in Myanmar & Thailand is scheduled for November.

The couple have two fantastic offspring that they see far too seldom. They are more alike than either will admit. Michael 38 and Jennifer 35, both with Masters in Computer Science and living in the Bay Area. Both have worked at a variety of Silicon Valley tech firms. He is currently with Groupon, and she with Box. Both are Darwin challenged, riding motorcycles in Bay area traffic and taking on 540-mile bicycle trips in behalf of charity. Jennifer has dabbled in kayaking, rock & ice climbing, scuba diving, and recently climbed Kilimanjaro. Realizing that Mom & Dad were not up to it, they recently made their independent way to Alaska, riding motorcycles from SF to Alaska & Canada. Michael made it a 3-nation trip by returning via Mexico.

Don Burton
1445 Big Rock Loop
Los Alamos, NM 87544


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