Nuclear Weapons

Caltech professor Robert Oppenheimer lead a team of researchers at Los Alamos to invent the atomic bomb. Along with some of the most noteworthy physicists in the world, he oversaw the development of the nuclear bomb.

The Manhattan Project, like the code-breaking at Bletchley Park, was intensely secretive. Los Alamos, in New Mexico, was built to house the many scientists, technicians, and other soldiers working on the bomb.

Nobel Laureates Enrico Fermi and Niels Bohr worked alongside countless others towards the goal of creating a super-weapon to defeat Hitler’s Nazis. Einstein did not live in Los Alamos but consulted on the project. von Neumann did not live at Los Alamos but visited frequently, helping to develop the technology.

On August 6, 1945, the US dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. Furthermore, three days later, August 9, the US dropped the second and last nuclear bomb ever used in war on Nagasaki, Japan. Thereafter, Emporer Hirohito announced an unconditional surrender on August 15, 1945, ending WWII.

“We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.”

Oppenheimer, 1965.

On Dec. 21, 1953, the US government revoked Oppenheimer’s security clearance due to his opposition to war. He died in 1967, age 62.

The Gadget in the test tower. Photo courtesy of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
First Nuclear Weapon