The first large plutonium reactor at Hanford shut down shortly after researchers tried to fire it up. Physicist Chien-Shiung Wu, nicknamed “the queen of nuclear research,” traced the problem to Xe-135.

July 16, 1945

The first atomic weapons test, codenamed Trinity, took place at 5:29 a.m., outside Socorro, New Mexico. The site was later designated a National Historic Landmark.

November 1945

The first issue of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was published. In the subsequent decades, the publication has addressed the potential for many types of human-made disasters.

September 1953

After much of the radioactivity had subsided, the first Trinity Site open house was held. The McDonald ranch house, where the core of the weapon was assembled, was restored in 1984 by the National Park Service.


The Atomic Fireball candy was invented by the Ferrara Pan Candy Company. This is just one way that atomic-themed concepts entered pop culture.

March 1959

The American Weekly published a feature by author Pearl S. Buck that recounts a discussion between Manhattan Project& scientists J. Robert Oppenheimer and Arthur Compton about the possibility that an atomic bomb could ignite the atmosphere.

October 1961

Melvin Calvin was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for his research on the carbon dioxide assimilation in plants.” The work relied, in part, on radioactive carbon-14 produced in a Manhattan Project reactor.


The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which aimed to ban all nuclear explosions, opened for signatures from nations.

The Stories

Isotopes produced in the original Manhattan Project reactors seeded decades of research and even a few Nobel Prizes.
Catherine Meyers, Editor
A selection of women and people of color who achieved remarkable things in science after working on the Manhattan Project.
Nala Rogers, Staff Writer
A glimpse into the history of the start of the atomic age.
Karin Heineman, Executive Producer

The Fear of Setting the Planet on Fire with a Nuclear Weapon

The idea of a nuclear bomb accidentally setting the entire planet on fire was once a fear shared by many.

by Yuen Yiu, July 15, 2020

Movies, music and even candy wrappers helped people process what it meant to put the powers of gods in human hands.
Chris Gorski, Editor
The Manhattan Project resulted in reactions both new and unforeseen.
Abigail Malate, Staff Illustrator
Highlights from our previous coverage of nuclear weapons and radiation.
Inside Science Staff
The potentially world-destroying power of the atomic bomb moved many scientists to engage more directly with the public, an effort that continues to this day.
Peter Gwynne, Contributor

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