Newswise — WASHINGTON, D.C., July 17, 2020 -- In recognition of the 75th anniversary of the Trinity test, marking the first detonation of a nuclear bomb, the American Institute of Physics commemorates the scientific legacy of the Manhattan Project with a collection of new articles and historic testimony.

AIP publication Inside Science, the Center for History of Physics and the Niels Bohr Library & Archives showcase highlights from the complex heritage of the research and development of the first nuclear weapons and contributions to the advancement in the field.

Inside Science

Inside Science, an editorially independent news outlet published by the American Institute of Physics, features a compilation of original stories and video as well as archival resources addressing the topic of the Trinity test and the Manhattan Project. The collection, titled “Seventy-Five Years After Trinity,” presents a “snapshot of how deeply the influence of the Manhattan Project has permeated science and culture.”

Inside Science staff writer Yuen Yiu wrote an article for the collection that explores surprising public concerns regarding the Manhattan Project at the time.  

“My story for the project is about the fear, mostly from the ’50s through the ’70s, that scientists may ‘accidentally’ set the entire planet on fire during a nuclear bomb test,” said Yiu. “I could imagine the public at the time could easily have been convinced one way or another. Not due to the lack of their education but due to the inherent complexity of the problem.”

The article, titled “The Fear of Setting the Planet on Fire with a Nuclear Weapon,” is one of six original contributions to the collection.

Another article, this one by Inside Science contributor Peter Gwynne, focuses more on the public engagement than on the destructive power that the atom bomb provoked.

Gwynne explains scientists from the Manhattan Project, moved to action by the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, “set out to engage the public, including lawmakers, in discussions about the implications of a nuclear-armed world.”

“Their efforts had an immediate effect on postwar strategy and have continued to reverberate for the 7 1/2 decades since then,” wrote Gwynne in his piece, “When Physics Faced the Darkest Part of Reality."

The collection also includes such stories as “A Forgotten Legacy: How Nuclear Reactors Built for War Transformed Peacetime Science” and “How Culture Wrestled with the Atomic Age." There is also a video about tourism at the Trinity test site.

Niels Bohr Library & Archives, Center for History of Physics

The Niels Bohr Library & Archives, in collaboration with the Center for History of Physics, assembled a collection that also features the significant history of the Manhattan Project.

Joanna Behrman, assistant public historian at the Center for History of Physics, wrote a blog post for the anniversary titled, “Remembering the Trinity Test, Seventy-Five Years Later.” The post, which will be featured on the Niels Bohr Library & Archives blog, Ex Libris Universum, presents a curated collection of resources for those interested in learning more about the history of the Manhattan Project.

“We chose items from our library’s collection that would ensure accessibility, variety and appeal to a broad audience,” Behrman said. “One of the strengths of an archive is usually its books and physical collections, but because of current circumstances, we wanted to put together a collection of resources that individuals can access remotely.”

Behrman’s blog highlights oral histories by Phillip Morrison and Kenneth Bainbridge; a documentary, “The Day After Trinity,” that features research pulled from the Niels Bohr Library & Archives; and an introductory piece, “The First Light of Trinity” by Alex Wellerstein.


About American Institute of Physics

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is a 501(c)(3) membership corporation of scientific societies. AIP pursues its mission—to advance, promote, and serve the physical sciences for the benefit of humanity—with a unifying voice of strength from diversity. In its role as a federation, AIP advances the success of its Member Societies by providing the means to pool, coordinate, and leverage their diverse expertise and contributions in pursuit of a shared goal of advancing the physical sciences in the research enterprise, in the economy, in education, and in society. In its role as an institute, AIP operates as a center of excellence using policy analysis, social science, and historical research to promote future progress in the physical sciences.