© 2014

The History and Science of the Manhattan Project


Part of the Undergraduate Lecture Notes in Physics book series (ULNP)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvi
  2. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 1-14
  3. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 71-117
  4. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 119-174
  5. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 175-228
  6. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 229-255
  7. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 257-359
  8. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 361-415
  9. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 417-440
  10. Back Matter
    Pages 441-472

About this book


The development of atomic bombs under the auspices of the U. S. Army’s Manhattan Project during World War II is considered to be the outstanding news story of the twentieth century. In this book, a physicist and expert on the history of the Project presents a comprehensive overview of this momentous achievement. The first three chapters cover the history of nuclear physics from the discovery of radioactivity to the discovery of fission, and would be ideal for instructors of a sophomore-level “Modern Physics” course. Student-level exercises at the ends of the chapters are accompanied by answers. Chapter 7 covers the physics of first-generation fission weapons at a similar level, again accompanied by exercises and answers. For the interested layman and for non-science students and instructors, the book includes extensive qualitative material on the history, organization, implementation, and results of the Manhattan Project and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombing missions. The reader also learns about the legacy of the Project as reflected in the current world stockpiles of nuclear weapons.



Atomic Bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki Los Alamos Project Manhattan Project Manhattan Project Undergraduate Text Nuclear Fission Bomb Nuclear Weapons

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsAlma CollegeAlmaUSA

About the authors

The author holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Waterloo (Canada) and has published 20 technical and semi-popular-level papers on the Manhattan Project and related nuclear history in publications such as American Journal of Physics, The Physics Teacher, European Journal of Physics, Natural Science, American Scientist, Physics & Society and Physics in Perspective. In 2009 he was made a Fellow of the American Physical Society in recognition of my contributions “ … to the history of both the physics and the development of nuclear weapons in the Manhattan Project.”

Bibliographic information

Industry Sectors
Energy, Utilities & Environment


“It's accessible and easy to read but covers all the interesting aspects of the Manhattan Project starting with the fascinating scientists and other people that were involved in the project … . I found this book delightfully inclusive and very detailed and as such a perfect book to read if you're interested in the Manhattan Project in general.” (, May, 2018)

“This new text by Cameron successfully marries the science with the history of the Manhattan Project in 472 pages and 173 illustrations (most of them original). … I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning about the history of the Manhattan Project and all the nuclear physics behind the project, which is written in a very approachable and educational way.” (Dimitris Mihailidis, Medical Physics, Vol. 41 (9), September, 2014)

“Reed (Alma College) provides a well-written scientific, organizational, military, and diplomatic history of the American (and British!) programs leading to the construction and use of the world’s first nuclear weapon. … The book, part of Springer’s ‘Undergraduate Lecture Notes in Physics’ series, is well suited for undergraduates and others who have successfully completed a good introductory college physics course. … Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above; general readers.” (A. M. Saperstein, Choice, Vol. 51 (9), May, 2014)

“This work, published in the Springer Undergraduate Lecture Notes in Physics series, is intended as a college-level science text on the Manhattan Project, but serves well as a resource for scientists and non-scientists. … Each chapter concludes with problems for students and an extensive bibliography.” (ALSOS Digital Library for Nuclear Issues,, 2014)