Martyl Langsdorf was born in St. Louis in 1917 to a prominent family of artists. Her husband, Alexander Langsdorf, was a physicist at Washington University St. Louis, when he was conscripted to be part of the Manhattan Project in Chicago. Langsdorf and her husband moved to the Hyde Park community area. After the war, the founders of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists approached Langsdorf, the only artist in their social circle, to design its cover. Her initial cover design became known as the Doomsday Clock.