The Scientists behind the Manhattan Project

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The Manhattan Project was an enormous undertaking that required the efforts of many of the world's most brilliant intellectuals. Hundreds of physicists, mathematicians, and engineers were needed to design, build, and test the world's first atomic weapon and the Unites States government did everything in its power to lure these individuals to the Manhattan Project. While many famous scientists were not directly involved in the Manhattan Project, their discoveries and years of research in the field of nuclear physics contributed greatly to our understanding of atomic energy. Below is a list of scientists whose work was essential for the development of the first atomic bomb.

Although General Leslie Groves was not a scientist, he was the head of the whole Manhattan Project and dealt with the scientists on a daily basis. His selection of J. Robert Oppenheimer to head the Los Alamos Laboratory, despite some concerns over Oppenheimer's past political views, is praised as key to the success of the project. See Early Nuclear Pioneers for biographies of early twentieth-century scientists who laid the foundation for the project.

Germany's atomic bomb program failed, despite the efforts of top German scientists on the project, including Walter Bothe and Werner Karl Heisenberg.

The Fifth Solvay Conference, held in 1927, depicts 29 of the world's most famous scientists in one picture. Albert Einstein (middle), Marie Curie (left) and quantum scientist Niels Bohr (right) are just a few of the scientists whose work laid the foundations for the Manhattan Project. Photo Credit: Forri Farg
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