The First Nuclear Chain Reaction – Enrico Fermi and Henry Moore – ARCHIVE
The Italian physicist Enrico Fermi set off the first nuclear chain reaction in an underground tennis-court at the University of Chicago in December 1942. His experiment led directly to the building of the plutonium bomb that destroyed the city of Nagasaki.
There are competing claims as to the beginning of the nuclear age. Was it the day of Trinity, was it Hiroshima, or was it Fermi with his willingness to risk a nuclear explosion in the middle of a crowded city.
But more important than the date is the need to comprehend the fundamental change that the beginning of the nuclear age has brought about. Albert Einstein said that the unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking; and “thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”
Iain Boal’s story is intriguing because it places this quote into a new context. He begins by briefly setting back the clock – reminding us of the earliest militant resistance to the beginning of the industrial age.
Iain Boal was educated at Oxford, Cambridge and London Universities. He has taught at Harvard and Stanford and is affiliated with the Geography Department at UC Berkeley.
Recorded in March 2002 at a series of TUC Radio events where scientists and historians met with a small circle of friends. They gave previews of projects that had not yet appeared in any public space.