The Atom Bomb Intro: 50 Years Ago
FIFTY YEARS AGO THIS SUMMER, THE WORLD WAS changed forever when the first nuclear bomb exploded above the New Mexico desert and then bombs were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The moral, psychological, and geopolitical ramifications of this most powerful and revolutionary of all technologies and its use have been matters of universal concern ever since. They will undoubtedly be the subject of particularly intense discussion this summer.
Invention & Technology ’s contribution is a look at the anniversary from the magazine’s unique perspective, examining the making of the bomb as the astounding, unparalleled engineering feat it was and assessing its consequences in the specific realm of technology. Dan Cooper, a nuclear physicist, describes how Enrico Fermi made the bomb possible, taking the long first step from the abstract concept of a controlled chain reaction to an actual working nuclear pile. The naval historian Al Christman tells how Capt. William S. (“Deak”) Parsons carried it through. Parsons was the unsung project manager who oversaw the most ambitious engineering undertaking of all time —even to the extent of riding on the Enola Gay to Hiroshima and personally arming and approving release of its payload. Finally, T. A. Heppenheimer looks at the consequences of the Manhattan Project in terms of the technology it has spawned—and makes the surprising discovery that the power of the atom has actually changed the lives of most of us far less than anyone would have predicted after its first momentous unleashing half a century ago.