WWII Manhattan Project

Paper Rating: Word Count: 1703 Approx Pages: 7

Just before the beginning of World War II, Albert Einstein

wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Urged by

Hungarian-born physicists Leo Szilard, Eugene Wingner, and Edward

Teller, Einstein told Roosevelt about Nazi German efforts to purify

Uranium-235 which might be used to build an atomic bomb. Shortly after

that the United States Government began work on the Manhattan Project.

The Manhattan Project was the code name for the United States effort

to develop the atomic bomb before the Germans did. "The first

successful experiments in splitting a uranium atom had been carried

out in the autumn of 1938 at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in

Berlin"(Groueff 9) just after Einstein wrote his letter. So the race

was on. Major General Wilhelm D. Styer called the Manhattan Project

"the most important job in the war . . . an all-out effort to build an

atomic bomb."(Groueff 5) It turned out to be the biggest development

in warfare and science's biggest development this century. The most

complicated issue to be addressed by the scientists working on the

Manhattan Project was "the production of ample amounts of 'enriched'

uranium to sustain a chain reaction."(Outlaw 2) At the time,

Uranium-235 was hard to extract. Of the Uranium ore mined, only about

1/500 th of it ended up as Uranium metal. Of the Uranium metal, "the

fissionable isotope of Uranium (Uranium- 235) is relatively rare,

occurring in Uranium at a ratio of 1 to 139."(Szasz 15) Separating the

one part Uranium-235 from the 139 parts Uranium-238 proved to be a

challenge. "No ordinary chemical extraction could separate the two

isotopes. Only mechanical methods could effectively separate U-235

from U-238."(2) Scientists at Columbia University solved this

difficult problem. A "massive enrichment laboratory/plant"(Outlaw 2)

was built at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. H. C. Urey, his associates, and... Continue Reading