The Manhattan Project

7 Oct, 2021 620 Engineering

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the race to build an atom bomb in the USA during World War Two. Before the war, scientists in Germany had discovered the potential of nuclear fission and scientists in Britain soon argued that this could be used to make an atom bomb, against which there could be no defence other than to own one. The fear among the Allies was that, with its head start, Germany might develop the bomb first and, unmatched, use it on its enemies. The USA took up the challenge in a huge engineering project led by General Groves and Robert Oppenheimer and, once the first bomb had been exploded at Los Alamos in July 1945, it appeared inevitable that the next ones would be used against Japan with devastating results.

The image above is of Robert Oppenheimer and General Groves examining the remains of one the bases of the steel test tower, at the atomic bomb Trinity Test site, in September 1945.

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  • Bruce Cameron Reed No other episodes
    The Charles A. Dana Professor of Physics Emeritus at Alma College, Michigan
  • Cynthia Kelly No other episodes
    Founder and President of the Atomic Heritage Foundation
  • Frank Close 15 episodes
    Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford

Reading list

  • American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
    Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005) Google Books →
  • Trinity: The Treachery and Pursuit of the Most Dangerous Spy in History
    Frank Close (Penguin, 2020) Google Books →
  • 109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos
    Jennet Conant (Simon & Schuster, 2005) Google Books →
  • Churchill's Bomb
    Graham Farmelo (Basic Books, 2013) Google Books →
  • Britain and Atomic Energy 1939-1945
    Margaret Gowing (Palgrave Macmillan, 1965) Google Books →
  • Racing the Enemy: Stalin, Truman, and the Surrender of Japan
    Tsuyoshi Hasegawa (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005) Google Books →
  • Hiroshima
    John Hersey (Alfred A. Knopf, 1985) Google Books →
  • The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic Bomb in the Words of Its Creators, Eyewitnesses, and Historians
    Cynthia C. Kelly (Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007) Google Books →
  • Atomic Doctors: Conscience and Complicity at the Dawn of the Nuclear Age
    James L. Nolan, Jr. (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2020) Google Books →
  • Racing for the Bomb: General Leslie R. Groves, the Manhattan Project's Indispensable Man
    Robert S. Norris (Steerforth Press, 2002)
  • Manhattan Project: Story of the Century
    Cameron Reed (Springer, 2020)
  • The Making of the Atomic Bomb
    Richard Rhodes (Simon & Schuster, 1986) Google Books →
  • British Scientists and the Manhattan Project: The Los Alamos Years
    Ferenc Szasz (Palgrave Macmillan, 1992) Google Books →
  • Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs Against Japan
    J. Samuel Walker (University of North Carolina Press, 1992) Google Books →

Related episodes

Programme ID: m00108h1

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Auto-category: 623.45119 (Atomic bomb)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. On 16th of July 1945, the first atomic bomb was detonated at Los Alamos, New Mexico.