History

History

This section provides an overview of the history of the Manhattan Project, the key organizations involved, the science behind the bomb, and more.
Building on the site of Unit 731. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Unit 731

Unit 731, located in Harbin, China, was a secret Japanese project that carried out human medical experiments during the 1930s and 1940s.
Ryerson and Eckhart Halls at the University of Chicago. Photo courtesy of Britannica.

University Partners

In the late 1930's and early 1940's, the vast majority of scientific research was conducted at colleges and universities across the US.
A billet of uranium

Uranium

By 1938, the confused chemistry of uranium became the "topic of the day" at laboratories everywhere.
Uraninite

Uranium Mining

Published: July 30, 2018

Updated: December 5, 2018

Uranium was discovered in 1789 by German scientist Martin Heinrich Klaproth in the mineral pitchblende. It was isolated shortly after, but its radioactive properties were not discovered until 1896 by Henri Becquerel. The discovery of uranium fission in 1938 led several countries to begin research into the possibility of developing an atomic bomb.

The USS Indianapolis before the war

USS Indianapolis

The USS Indianapolis was a US Navy cruiser that delivered the components of the Little Boy atomic bomb to Tinian Island. It was later sunk by a Japanese submarine in what became the worst naval disaster in US history.
The Los Alamos Water Boiler reactor, circa 1944

Water Boiler Reactor

By harnessing uranium in its liquid form, the Water Boiler reactor helped scientists learn how to best build the atomic bomb.
A worker at Hanford

Who Built the Atomic Bomb?

The US accomplished what other nations thought impossible. How did the United States achieve the remarkable feat of building an atomic bomb?
Women going to work at the Y-12 Plant at Oak Ridge

Women and the Bomb

Women played a very important role in varying aspects of the Manhattan Project.
WACs, Oak Ridge, 1945.

Women's Army Corps (WAC)

The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was established during World War II as the women’s branch of the U.S. Army.

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