Albert Einstein/the Manhattan Project

2254 Words Dec 7th, 2010 10 Pages
Historical Question: How did Albert Einstein influence the creation and evolution of the Manhattan Project and why did Einstein’s thoughts and involvement in the Manhattan Project change throughout World War II?

Albert Einstein was undoubtedly one of the geniuses of the twentieth century. His work with gravity, relativity, light, and the universe helped to herald in a golden age for the study of science, of which scientists are still marveling at and studying today. Additionally, he was well-known for his participation in the Manhattan Project and the construction of the two atomic bombs. Along with numerous other scientists such as Fermi and Szilard, Einstein came to the realization that Nazi Germany was on its way to constructing
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Einstein’s famous E=mc² (energy is the mass of the object multiplied by the speed of light squared) equation was the kindling for the research and development of atomic energy. Quite simply, it implied that a small amount of matter converted into energy could produce tremendous amounts of energy because the speed of light, a massive number, is being squared. This was the foundation of the atomic bombs. A small amount of unstable isotopes of either natural uranium or manmade plutonium could produce tremendous quantities of energy in the form of heat and light if they could be forced to undergo spontaneous reactions (Loeber, 1-2 from USMA library).
J. Robert Oppenheimer, the technical lead for the Manhattan Project took this equation and attempted to create the first nuclear reactor, which was to be used as a prototype atomic bomb. Because there were still so many questions that needed to be answered about nuclear fission designs, such as how to start a spontaneous reaction, Oppenheimer commissioned Enrico Fermi, a famous Italian physicist, to help him create a basic nuclear reactor, which Fermi soon dubbed CP-1, “Chicago Pile #1.” The original thought process on starting a self-sustaining nuclear reaction was the “gun-method,” in which a long hollow tube had two halves of a sphere of solid plutonium, with an explosive at one side, which would “shoot” one half into the other, hopefully creating a supercritical mass that could achieve

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