A special issue of the ANS journal Nuclear Technology, published last month, observes the 75th anniversary of the Trinity experiment, the world’s first nuclear explosion, on July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, N.M. The experiment was a first step toward the conclusion of the Manhattan Project and the end of World War II. The special issue, The Manhattan Project Nuclear Science and Technology Development at Los Alamos: A Special Issue of Nuclear Technology, was sponsored by Los Alamos National Laboratory and curated by Mark Chadwick.
Thanks to LANL, the 23 papers published in the issue are open access, which means that a subscription is not required to read this contribution to the history of science. The issue can be accessed on the journal’s platform, hosted by Taylor & Francis, publisher of ANS’s technical journals.
The science: The issue doesn’t focus on the military aspects of the experiment but focuses instead on the scientific value of the experiment to the nuclear community. About the scope of the project, Chadwick states, “The goal of the articles is to clarify the nature of the breakthroughs made, correct previous misunderstandings in the open literature, illuminate fascinating aspects of the underlying research, and illustrate how science from 75 years ago has proven foundational for the peaceful use of nuclear energy and today’s nuclear technology.”
The atom for peace: In his introduction to the issue, Chadwick quotes Secretary of War Henry Stimson speaking at a meeting in 1945—eight years before Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace speech. His words at the time captured the hope of those involved in the Manhattan Project that their work could be used for the benefit of humanity instead of war. “This project should not be considered simply in terms of military weapons, but as a new relationship of man to the universe,” Stimson said. “While the advances in the field to date had been fostered by the needs of war, it was important to realize that the implications of the project went far beyond the needs of the present war. It must be controlled, if possible, to make it an assurance of future peace rather than a menace to civilization.”
This issue of Nuclear Technology demonstrates the peaceful outcomes from the Trinity tests and provides a historical context to the work involved in the Manhattan Project.