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1941 to 1942: Getting Organized

1941 to 1942: Getting Organized

Timeline Image: 
FDR inauguration 1944

August 29, 1942

A status report by James B. Conant is relayed to the Secretary of War by Vannevar Bush indicating the very positive results of Oppenheimer's group. Bush adds his concerns about the organization and leadership of the project, requesting new leadership be appointed.

July to September, 1942

Oppenheimer assembles theoretical study group in Berkeley to examine the principles of bomb design. Included are J. Robert Oppenheimer, Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, John Van Vleck, Felix Bloch, Robert Serber, and Emil Konopinski. During the summer the group develops the principles of atomic bomb design, and examines the feasibility of fusion bombs. Oppenheimer emerges as a natural leader. The group estimates the mass of U-235 required for a high yield detonation at 30 kg (estimated at 100 Kt), megaton range fusion bombs are also considered highly likely. During this period Richard C.

June 18, 1942

Due to continuing and increasing organizational problems, Col. James Marshall is ordered by Brig. Gen. Wilhelm Styer to organize a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers District to take over and consolidate atomic bomb development.


June 1942

J. Robert Oppenheimer leads an effort on fast neutron physics, and prepares an outline for the entire neutron physics program. Production of plutonium through marathon irradiation by cyclotron begins. Chicago Met Lab engineering council begins developing plans for large scale plutonium production reactors. President Roosevelt approves a plan for spending $85 million for a weapon development program.

May 19, 1942

Robert Oppenheimer writes Ernest O. Lawrence that the atomic bomb problem was solved in principle and that six good physicists should have the details mostly worked out in six months. His optimism is based on the belief that gun assembly would suffice for both uranium and plutonium.

May 18, 1942

Gregory Breit, who has been coordinating physics research on fast neutron phenomena, quits, leaving the neutron physics effort without leadership. Arthur H. Compton asks J. Robert Oppenheimer to take over in his place.