At Home‎ > ‎

Manhattan Project 2016

The Manhattan Project was a US Government led project to create the first atomic bomb. It all started in 1938, during World War II, when German scientists had figured out how to split a uranium atom. Scientists everywhere feared that the energy from this fission would be enough to power a very destructive bomb. This knowledge led to the start of the Manhattan Project, which was a race with Germany to create the first atomic bomb. Though many people worried about the  new power the Germans held, it was two scientists, Enrico Fermi and Albert Einstein, who first decided to try to convince the government to start this project. At first, President Roosevelt thought the idea wasn’t worth the time and money, but he finally agreed to commence the Manhattan Project in 1941.

In the beginning stages, the development of the world’s first atomic bomb was based at Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and the University of California at Berkeley. Over time, the later expanded to bigger laboratories throughout the US. The biggest laboratory for this project was in Los Alamos, New Mexico. After a few years of research and testing, Enrico Fermi and a group of physicists successfully produced a nuclear chain reaction in 1942. This was a huge breakthrough and led the government to begin providing more funds for the project. Because of this, the research began progressing much faster and many more breakthroughs were made.

In the end, the project cost around 2 billion dollars (approximately 2.6 billion dollars today). There were about 120,000 people working on it and only about 5,000 of them knew what the Manhattan Project was really about. It had to be kept top secret because it could be disastrous if enemies found out about what we were trying to create. The US needed to use the element of surprise to cause the most damage possible.

By the summer of 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb was ready to be tested. On July 16, the bomb was set up on top of a tower at the Trinity Site in New Mexico. It was detonated before dawn.

Nobody was prepared for the power of this atomic bomb. The flash that came from the explosion was visible from 200 miles away, a large crater was created, and a mushroom cloud was produced.

On August 6, 1945,  the US dropped the first atomic bomb on enemy soil over Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, another bomb was dropped over Nagasaki, Japan. By the end of 1945, an estimated 200,000 people had died in those two cities. The atomic bomb that the United States created gave them a huge advantage over other countries in World War II. Some people might say that the atomic bomb won the war.

Fission - the action of dividing or splitting an atom

Atomic Bomb - a bomb that derives its destructive power from the rapid release of nuclear energy by fission of heavy atomic nuclei, causing damage through heat, blast, and radioactivity

Enrico Fermi - an Italian physicist, who created the world's first nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile1. He has been called the "architect of the nuclear age" and the "architect of the atomic bomb".

Albert Einstein - US physicist and mathematician, born in Germany. He helped create the world’s first Atomic bomb.

Nuclear Chain Reaction - a series of nuclear fissions (splitting of atomic nuclei), each initiated by a neutron produced in a preceding fission.