© 2019

The History and Science of the Manhattan Project


  • This is the only introductory-level history of the Project prepared by a writer who is a physicist and who has broad knowledge of the relevant scientific details

  • Ideal for readers who have no specialized physics background but who want to learn more about how atomic bombs came to be

  • Provides a deeper understanding of some of the technical issues involved in developing atomic bombs for those readers who possess high-school physics knowledge

  • An ideal text for a college-level “general education” history or science class

  • Based on years of research by the author into the physics of nuclear weapons, augmented by familiarity with relevant official archival documentation

  • Second edition significantly extended and enhanced


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

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xviii
  2. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 1-18
  3. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 75-124
  4. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 125-181
  5. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 183-238
  6. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 239-270
  7. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 271-382
  8. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 383-438
  9. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 439-475
  10. Bruce Cameron Reed
    Pages 477-506
  11. Back Matter
    Pages 507-538

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.

This second edition contains important revisions and additions, including a new chapter on the German atomic bomb program and new sections on British and Canadian contributions to the Manhattan project and on feed materials. Several other sections have been expanded; reader feedback has been helpful in introducing minor corrections and improved explanations; and, last but not least, the second edition includes a detailed index.




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 over 30 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 his contributions “ … to the history of both the physics and the development of nuclear weapons in the Manhattan Project.”

Bibliographic information

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