Mohawk Atomic Bomb
The Race to Build the Atomic Bomb
Contra Costa County Office of Education

Those Responsible

There were hundreds of thousands of people who worked to make the first atomic bomb a reality. Here we look at a few of the government, military and scientific leaders of the project.

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Oppenheimer thought it would take 50 scientists. He started with 500 and in the end, had 5,000 involved.

The Timeline and Exodus of Scientists sections of this site contain a good list of those responsible for the creation of the atomic bomb. Here are a few others not mentioned in those pages.

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Leslie GrovesGeneral Leslie Groves, in the Summer of 1942 was appointed director of the Manhattan Project. He was a heavy handed and forceful leader that drove the scientists crazy.

OppenheimerJ. Robert Oppenheimer was appointed by General Groves to head up the Manhattan Project on . Born in New York in 1904, he received his Ph.D. in Germany in 1925 and returned to UC Berkeley in 1929. In 1942, he was selected to head Los Alamos National Laboratory. After the war he stated to President, "Mr. President, I have blood on my hands."

Harry S. TrumanPresident Harry S. Truman became president after the death of FDR. Taking office on April 12, 1945, he assumed a huge responsibility. Germany would surrender in less than a month but the tough decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan and end the war was his to make.

Col. James Marshall was selected by the Army Corps of Engineers to oversee the construction of factories to separate uranium isotopes and manufacture plutonium for the bomb.

Vannevar BushVannevar Bush was vice-president and dean at MIT in 1932. He met with Roosevelt in 1940 and convinced him to create the National Defense Resource Committee (NDRC), to organize military technology research. in September 1942 he created and chaired the Military Policy Committee that the Manhattan Project reported to.

James ConantJames B. Conant a chemist and president of Harvard University took over leadership of the NDRC in June of 1941. Soon after, he became in charge of the S-1 Section from the existing Advisory Committee on Uranium.

William SterlingRear Admiral William Sterling Parsons was associate director of the Los Alamos Laboratory and director of the Ordinance Division. He was also the Commander of the Hiroshima bombing mission.

Robert SerberRobert Serber presented a series of five lectures in 1943 to Los Alamos scientist that summarized all that was known about designing and building an atomic bomb. This was based mostly on his independent work and is compiled in the "Los Alamos Primer".

Richard FeynmanRichard Feynman awarded the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics. In 1942 at 24 years of age, Feynman became the leader of the theoretical division. Feynman worked on estimating how much uranium would be needed to achieve critical mass. HE also developed procedures that protected others from radiation poisoning.

Glen SeaborgGlen Seaborg awarded the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was involved in the discovery of Plutonium and lead the Manhattan Project's chemical process for the separation, concentration and isolation of plutonium.