Historical Encyclopedia of Atomic Energy

By Stephen E. Atkins | Go to book overview

M

Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project was the largest military-civilian program undertaken in World War II, and its goal was the building of an operational atomic bomb. It was a costly project, with the tab at around $2 billion for its first three years. Several Prominent American scientific leaders believed in the summer of 1940 that Germany had a six-month headstart on the development of an atomic bomb. Three factors fed this belief: Germany had access to the only supply of uranium in Europe; Germany had seized Norway's heavy water plant; and Germany had able scientists, especially Werner Heisenberg. Despite this news, most American physicists were busy working on radar projects, so much of the early work on atomic problems was done by European emigrant scientists. Early work at Columbia University under brilliant physicist Enrico Fermi looked promising, and the Uranium Committee provided graphite and uranium for the project. A decision was made to transfer the reactor experiment to the University of Chicago, where on December 2, 1942, a successful demonstration took place under Fermi's supervision. After news of this experiment reached President Roosevelt, he called together key members of the Appropriation Committees of Congress and asked for an ultra-secret project that would cost at least $1 billion. General Leslie R. Groves was selected to head this project on September 23, 1942, and it was to be called the “Manhattan Engineer District” as a code name to confuse possible enemy agents. The name was soon shortened to the Manhattan Project. A Military Advisory Committee had overall supervisory authority and this committee had four members: Vannevar Bush, chair, James Conant, vice chair, Admiral William Purnell, representing the navy, and General Wilhelm Styer, representing the army. An early decision was made to pursue the development of both U-235 and plutonium weap-

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Historical Encyclopedia of Atomic Energy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction ix
  • A 1
  • B 40
  • C 69
  • D 107
  • E 114
  • F 124
  • G 143
  • H 155
  • I 169
  • J 183
  • K 193
  • L 201
  • M 223
  • N 240
  • O 267
  • P 276
  • Q 296
  • R 299
  • S 318
  • T 357
  • U 380
  • V 391
  • W 397
  • Y 406
  • Z 408
  • Chronology of Atomic Energy 411
  • Selected Bibliography 427
  • Index 445
  • About the Author 492
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