In this rundown on Manhattan Project facts we will learn how the atomic age began. We will learn about the development of the first atomic bomb and its subsequent usage. Take a look below for 30 bizarre and interesting facts about the Manhattan Project.
1. The term ‘Manhattan Project’ is a code name. It is the name that was given to a project led by the Americans to create a functional Atomic Bomb.
2. The project took place during the closing years of the infamous World War II.
3. The project involved some of the greatest scientific minds of that time as well as the US Military.
4. Most of the work for the Manhattan Project was done in Los Alamos, New Mexico, United States.
5. The reason why the Manhattan Project came into existence was the fear of German scientists working on a weapon using the nuclear technology since the 1930s and speculations that Adolf Hitler was ready to use the weapon.
6. In 1938, two German chemists by the names Fritz Strassmann and Otto Hahn discovered nuclear fission.
7. In the same year, two physicists by the name Otto Frisch and Lise Meitner came up with a theoretical explanation of nuclear fission. This allowed development of nuclear bomb a theoretical possibility.
8. Many scientists who were refugees from Nazi Germany and several other fascist countries feared that the Germans will first develop a nuclear bomb.
9. In 1939, Leo Szilard, along with Eugene Wigner – physicists who were born in Hungary, drafted a letter (that later became known as Einstein-Szilard letter). The letter was signed by Albert Einstein.
10. The letter that they drafted was sent to the then President of USA – Franklin D. Roosevelt. The letter warned of a potentially extremely powerful bomb of a new kind.
11. The letter was good enough for United States to take actions and the country went on to stockpile Uranium Ore. Several steps were also taken to accelerate the research done by Enrico Fermi and various other scientists who were working on nuclear chain reaction.
12. President Roosevelt went on to set up what is known as the Advisory Committee on Uranium.
13. He then called Layman Briggs – an American engineer and physicist from National Bureau of Standards and asked Briggs to head the committee so that it can investigate the issues that were presented by the Einstein-Szilard letter.
14. A meeting was organized by the Advisory Committee on Uranium and the matter was discussed on 21 October, 1939.
15. The committee went on to report to the President that Uranium was capable of becoming the possible source of bombs with unmatched destructiveness that man has never seen before.
16. Based on the findings and reports of the committee, the President sanctioned funding and the US government started funding the research that was done by Leo Szilard and Enrico Fermi at Columbia University.
17. The research that Szilard and Fermi was engaged in was referred to as ‘radioactive isotope separation’ aka ‘Uranium enrichment’ and nuclear chain reactions.
18. In 1940, the name of Advisory Committee on Uranium was changed to National Defence Research Committee and the committee was given $6000 in February 1940to start research.
19. In 1941, the name was once again changed from National Defence Research Committee to ‘Office of Scientific Research and Development’ or OSRD.
20. Enrico Fermi was named as a member of the OSRD in the same year.
21. In 1941, the Pearl Harbor attack happened. US Navy came under a surprise attack by the Japanese.
22. President Roosevelt declared war on Japan, thereby marking the engagement of USA in the WWII.
23. Allies of Japan, that is, Italy and Germany declared war on USA three days after USA declared war on Japan. In turn USA declared war on Italy and Germany.
24. USA aligned with Great Britain, Russia and France to fight against the Japanese in the Pacific Theater and the Germans in the Europe.
25. In 1942, President Roosevelt approved the joining of the Army Corps of Engineers into the OSRD. This formally morphed the project into a military project with scientists working as support.
26. OSRD went on to create Manhattan Engineering District in the year 1942. The place was located in Manhattan – a borough in New York City.
27. The person who was appointed as the project lead was Leslie R. Groves – a Lieutenant General in the US Army.
28. Szilard and Fermi were still involved in their research that involved nuclear chain reaction (that is the process that in involved in the interaction and separation of atoms) as well as successful enrichment of Uranium for producing Uranium-235.
29. However, this time, Szilard and Fermi were not working at Columbia University but at the University of Chicago.
30. While this all was happening in the USA, other scientists such as Glenn Seaborg were busy producing samples of pure Plutonium but on microscopic scale.