Critical Assembly: A Technical History of Los Alamos During the Oppenheimer Years, 1943-1945

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Cambridge University Press, Feb 12, 2004 - History - 528 pages
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This volume is a lucid and accurate history of the technical research that led to the first atomic bombs. The authors explore how the "critical assembly" of scientists, engineers, and military personnel at Los Alamos, responding to wartime deadlines, collaborated to create a new approach to large-scale research. The book opens with an introduction laying out major themes. After a synopsis of the prehistory of the bomb project, from the discovery of nuclear fission to the start of the Manhattan Engineer District, and an overview of the early materials program, the book examines the establishment of the Los Alamos Laboratory, the implosion and gun assembly programs, nuclear physics research, chemistry and metallurgy, explosives, uranium and plutonium development, confirmation of spontaneous fission in pile-produced plutonium, the thermonuclear bomb, critical assemblies, the Trinity test, and delivery of the combat weapons.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Early Research on Fission 19331943
12
The Early Materials Program 19331943
24
Setting Up Project Y June 1942 to March 1943
40
Research in the First Months of Project Y April to September 1943
67
Creating a Wartime Community September 1943 to August 1944
91
The Gun Weapon September 1943 to August 1944
111
The Implosion Program Accelerates September 1943 to July 1944
129
Exploring the Plutonium Implosion Weapon August 1944 to February 1945
267
Finding the Implosion Design August 1944 to February 1945
293
Building the Implosion Gadget March 1945 to July 1945
315
Critical Assemblies and Nuclear Physics August 1944 to July 1945
335
The Test at Trinity January 1944 to July 1945
350
Delivery June 1943 to August 1945
378
Epilogue
398
The Legacy of Los Alamos
403

New Hopes for the Implosion Weapon September 1943 to July 1944
163
The Nuclear Properties of a Fission Weapon September 1943 to July 1944
178
Uranium and Plutonium Early 1943 to August 1944
205
The Discovery of Spontaneous Fission in Plutonium and the Reorganization of Los Alamos
228
Building the Uranium Bomb August 1944 to July 1945
249
Notes
418
Name Index
493
Subject Index
501
Copyright

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About the author (2004)

Lillian Hoddeson, the Thomas Siebel Professor Emerita of the History of Science at the University of Illinois, is coauthor of "Crystal Fire", "Critical Assembly", "True Genius", and "Fermilab: Physics, the Frontier, and Megascience".

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