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The bomb at the university of chicago

  • The Chicago Met Lab served as the hub of the nationwide Metallurgical Project, which was commissioned to study atomic theory and, if possible, to build a prototype atomic reactor;
  • Under the right conditions, those neutrons could go on to split other atoms in a chain reaction that would either lead to a steady generation of heat or a huge explosion;
  • The Met Lab scientists attempted to influence postwar uses of atomic energy, both prior to and following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

That initial chain reaction was too weak to power even a single light bulb. It nevertheless transformed the world, and the University of Chicago along with it, in a range of endeavors spanning physics, chemistry, interdisciplinary research, policy analysis, and nuclear medicine.

The University of Chicago

Even in 1942, those present at the historic event sensed how influential their work would be. Allison wrote at the time. Later renamed the Enrico Fermi and the James Franck institutes, they enabled the University to retain much of the intellectual talent that had assembled on campus to work on the Manhattan Project.

Another outgrowth of the project was Argonne National Laboratorywhich conducts basic and applied research in many major scientific disciplines. Today, Argonne is a partner in the Institute for Molecular Engineeringwhich is bringing leading scientists and engineers to a groundbreaking initiative to conduct research at the molecular level.

75 years ago at the U. of C., Ted Petry saw the atom split for the first time

Wilson Distinguished Service Professor in Physics. In the middle of the day on which they produced the first chain reaction, they took a customary lunch break at Hutchinson Commons.

  • Layer 18, almost covered in the picture, contained uranium; alternate layers of graphite containing uranium metal and uranium oxide were spaced by layers of dead graphite;
  • The exhibit comprises manuscripts and artifacts from the scientists who worked in the Metallurgical Laboratory Met Lab , the code name for the University lab that investigated nuclear reactions during World War II, including a letter written by then-President Harry Truman defending his decision;
  • Next Manhattan Project The Manhattan Project, formally constituted in August 1942, was the code name for the federally funded research program to develop the atomic bomb;
  • Once the fission ratio for creating a chain reaction was measured and the implications understood, it was promptly kept very classified.

Hildebrand had started his work on the Manhattan Project as an undergraduate chemistry major at the University of California, Berkeley. The samples irradiated in Berkeley and another lab in St.

He weighed the first visible, pinhead-sized sample of plutonium. The potential hazards of nuclear power were evident even in those early days, but the war effort took priority.

  • Wilson Distinguished Service Professor in Physics;
  • The potential hazards of nuclear power were evident even in those early days, but the war effort took priority.

The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. Germany and Italy declared war on the United States four days later.

Multiwavelength Astronomy

Medical research gained unexpected benefits from the wartime research. The Argonne Hospital successfully pioneered the use of radiation in cancer treatment, with efforts later expanding to include radiological innovations in the diagnosis and treatment of other diseases. Although the University of Chicago already was renowned in physics and chemistry before World War II, scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project helped those departments attain new research prominence following the war.

Numerous UChicago scientists who were part of the war effort won Nobel Prizes for scholarly work in the postwar period, including Owen Chamberlain, Eugene P.

Wigner, and Glenn Seaborg. Fermi, one of the most important scientists of the 20th century, became an inspiring teacher at UChicago after the war before dying of stomach cancer in 1954.

Behind the wooden fence on the left is the squash court, where Enrico Fermi and his colleagues built the nuclear reactor or "pile.

This is one of the few known photographs of the reactor, taken during the addition of the 19th layer of graphite in November 1942. The graph shows the neutron intensity during various stages as the reactor was brought to criticality.

How the first chain reaction changed science

Enrico Fermi stands in the left of the front row. He went on to conduct pioneering work in particle physics at the University and also served as associate director for Argonne National Labratory. It has led to many discoveries, including the first useful electricity ever produced by nuclear power generated in December 1951shown here in this simple string of four 100-watt light bulbs.

The sculpture, created in 1967, lies just north of the Manuseto Library on Ellis Avenue.