Manhattan Project

Alfred Nier – a Pioneer in Mass Spectroscopy

Alfred Nier – a Pioneer in Mass Spectroscopy

On May 28, 1911, American physicist Alfred Otto Carl Nier was born. Nier pioneered the development of mass spectrometry. He was the first to use mass spectrometry to isolate uranium-235 which was used to demonstrate that 235U could undergo fission and developed the sector mass spectrometer configuration now known as Nier-Johnson geometry. “…You try to untangle all of these processes to get at the primordial ratio of the heliums in the cosmic…
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The Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer

The Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer

On April 22, 1904, American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer was born. Oppenheimer was the wartime head of the Los Alamos Laboratory and is among those who are credited with being the “father of the atomic bomb” for their role in the Manhattan Project, the World War II undertaking that developed the first nuclear weapons. Oppenheimer‘s achievements in physics included the Born–Oppenheimer approximation for molecular wave functions, work on the theory of electrons…
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The Case of Klaus Fuchs, Atomic Spy

The Case of Klaus Fuchs, Atomic Spy

On December 29, 1911, German-born British theoretical physicist and atomic spy Emil Julius Klaus Fuchs was born. In the time of the development of the atomic bomb at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Fuchs was responsible for many significant theoretical calculations relating to the first nuclear weapons, and later, early models of the hydrogen bomb. In 1950, Fuchs was convicted of supplying information from the American, British, and Canadian Manhattan Project to the…
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Ernest Lawrence and the Invention of the Cyclotron

Ernest Lawrence and the Invention of the Cyclotron

On August 8, 1901, pioneering American nuclear scientist Ernest Orlando Lawrence was born. He was awarded the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the cyclotron. He is also known for his work on uranium-isotope separation for the Manhattan Project, and for founding the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. “I am mindful that scientific achievement is rooted in the past, is cultivated to full stature by many contemporaries and…
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Maria Goeppert Mayer and the Nuclear Shell Model

Maria Goeppert Mayer and the Nuclear Shell Model

On June 28, 1906, German-born Physicist Maria Goeppert Mayer was born. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for proposing the nuclear shell model of the atomic nucleus. She was the second female Nobel laureate in physics, after Marie Curie. “Mathematics began to seem too much like puzzle solving. Physics is puzzle solving, too, but of puzzles created by nature, not by the mind of man.” — Maria Goeppert-Mayer, as quoted…
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William Penney and the British Nuclear Programme

William Penney and the British Nuclear Programme

On June 24, 1909, English mathematician William George Penney, Baron Penney , was born. He is acknowledged as having had a leading role in the development of Britain’s nuclear programme, a clandestine programme started in 1942 during World War II which produced the first British atomic bomb in 1952. William Penney – Early Years William Penney was raised in Sheerness, Kent, and attended the local technical school in Colchester where he completed his technical…
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Richard Hamming and the Hamming Code

Richard Hamming and the Hamming Code

On February 11, 1915, American mathematician Richard Wesley Hamming was born. Hamming’s work had many implications for computer science and telecommunications. His contributions include the Hamming code (which makes use of a Hamming matrix), the Hamming window, Hamming numbers, sphere-packing (or Hamming bound), and the Hamming distance. “The purpose of computation is insight, not numbers.” – Richard Wesley Hamming (1962) as quoted in [2] Richard Hamming – Youth and Education Richard Wesley…
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John von Neumann – Game Theory and the Digital Computer

John von Neumann – Game Theory and the Digital Computer

On December 28, 1903, Hungarian and American pure and applied mathematician, physicist, inventor and polymath John von Neumann was born. He made major contributions to a number of fields including mathematics, physics, economics, computing, and statistics. He was a key figure in the development of game theory, the concepts of cellular automata, and the digital computer. He is definitely one of the candidates to write several biographical articles of, each with a…
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Eugene Wigner and the Structure of the Atomic Nucleus

Eugene Wigner and the Structure of the Atomic Nucleus

On November 17, 1902, Hungarian American theoretical physicist and mathematician Eugene Paul Wigner was born. He is best known for for his contributions to the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles, particularly through the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles for which he shared the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics with Maria Goeppert. [4] “A possible explanation of the physicist’s use of mathematics to formulate his laws of nature…
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George Gamow and his fundamental Views on the Foundations of Science

George Gamow and his fundamental Views on the Foundations of Science

On March 4, 1904, theoretical physicist and cosmologist George Gamow was born. He was an early advocate and developer of George Lemaître’s Big Bang theory. Besides his contributions to physics, in his middle and late career, Gamow focused more on teaching, and became well known as an author of popular books on science, which are still in print more than 50 years after their publication. “There was a young fellow from Trinity,…
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