The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Post War, Manhattan Project


In mid-August 1945 the dropping of the uranium and plutonium bombs devastated the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, causing Japanese leaders to surrender to the United States. World War II had finally come to a close. However, the manner in which the war ended also marked the beginning of a new age. The detonation of the atomic bomb prompted unprecedented challenges in controlling the destructive weapon. Manhattan Project scientists, who had created the bomb in the midst of wartime secrecy and understood its grave dangers, were deeply concerned about the future of their brainchild. In a world that had been plagued by wars, they feared the next great conflict would be a hopelessly destructive war. Were the Soviets to discover the secrets of the atomic bomb-and the scientists believed that this would inevitably occur, probably sooner than most politicians would admit-the United States would not have the capability to defend itself from nuclear warfare. The scientists, who had played a relatively small role in the political arena, suddenly had a responsibility to herald a warning against the bomb. The destruction of two Japanese cities shattered the scientists' "ivory tower" of detachment from the social and political implications of their discoveries.