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.
The atom. Image courtesy of Colin M. Burnett, Wikimedia Commons.

Mystery of the Atom - 1900-1939

During the early part of the twentieth century, physicists and chemists toyed with the idea of obtaining energy from atoms.
Maria Montoya Martinez and her grandchild with Enrico Fermi. Photo courtesy of the Robert JS Brown Collection.

Native Americans and the Manhattan Project

Many of the communities established during the Manhattan Project relied on Native American cooperation.
Nevada Test Site From Above (Yucca Flats)

Nevada Test Site Downwinders

 

“Downwinders” are loosely defined as those individuals that lived “downwind” from nuclear production facilities or nuclear test sites. In the United States, Downwinder communities exist primarily in the Pacific Northwest and intermountain range between the Cascades and the Rockies, in states like Nevada, Utah, Washington, Idaho, and New Mexico. Due to American atmospheric nuclear testing, Downwinder communities also exist throughout the Marshall Islands.

U.S., Russian Delegations Meet at Bilateral Consultative Commission on New START Treaty

Non-Proliferation, Limitation, and Reduction

This article summarizes multilateral and bilateral treaties dealing with non-proliferation, limitation, and reduction of nuclear weapons.
The American nuclear football

Nuclear Briefcases

During the Cold War, both the United States and the Soviet Union created briefcases that allowed their respective leaders to order a nuclear attack within minutes.
A map used for briefing in Autumn Forge 83

Nuclear Close Calls: Able Archer 83

The election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980 saw the return of heightened Cold War tensions after a period of détente during the previous decade. The zenith of this escalation arguably came in 1983, when a NATO training exercise almost prompted nuclear war.

 

A Soviet R-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile in Red Square, Moscow

Nuclear Close Calls: The Cuban Missile Crisis

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union were largely prevented from engaging in direct combat with each other due to the fear of mutually assured destruction (MAD). In 1962, however, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world perilously close to nuclear war.
A Black Brant XII rocket similar to the one launched during the Norwegian rocket incident

Nuclear Close Calls: The Norwegian Rocket Incident

In 1995, Russian officials briefly misinterpreted a Norwegian scientific rocket to be a nuclear attack.

Nuclear Fission

In the 1930s, scientists observed and explained nuclear fission--splitting an atom--for the first time.

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