This summer is the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb. In this course of six sessions we will review the physics discoveries of the 1930s that made the bomb possible and look at the involved and interesting politics that led to America’s Manhattan Engineering District and its secret and crash effort to invent and build atomic bombs. This effort of extraordinary engineering required construction of three new cities — two to produce two chemical elements in quantities that do not occur in nature and a third to invent and build the bombs. You will meet some of the extraordinary personalities — among them Bush, Conant, FDR, Lawrence, Oliphant, Oppenheimer, and Brigadier General Leslie Groves — who saw farther and imagined better than others. And we will examine the decision to use the bombs; see some of their effects — horrendous death and destruction and the end of World War II; and examine the role of secrecy both in making the weapon and in helping to create the modern national security state.
Charles H. Holbrow, Ph.D. is C. A. Dana Professor of Physics Emeritus, Colgate University, Research Affiliate in Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Visiting Scholar in Physics, Harvard University.