HISTORY 124A Lecture Notes - Lecture 38: Los Alamos National Laboratory, Morrill Land-Grant Acts, An American Dilemma

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Lecture 38: Fall of the Ivory Tower 11/30/2016 12:37:00 PM
Announcements and Recap
The Atomic Bomb
Making the Bomb
o Pierre (1859-1906) and Marie Currie (1867-1934) shared the
1903 Nobel Prize in physics
o Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) became the first person to
split the atom in 1917.
o Oliver Lawrence (1901-1958) invented the Cyclotron in 1929
o Leo Szilard (1898-1964)
“As the light changed to green and I crossed the street,
it suddenly occurred to me that if we could find an
element which is split by neutrons and which would
emit two neutrons when it absorbs one neutron, such
an element, if assembled in sufficiently large mass,
could sustain a nuclear chain reaction… In certain
circumstances it might be possible to set up a nuclear
chain reaction, liberate energy on an industrial scale,
and construct atomic bombs.
o 1939, JanuaryScientists fission uranium atoms, releasing
millions of electron volts of energy.
o 1939, SummerSzilard and a few other scientists visit
Einstein at his Long Island vacation home and draft a letter to
Roosevelt briefing him on the advances in physics.
o 1939, October 11Alexander Sachs, an economist with
access to the White House, carries Einstein’s message to
Roosevelt.
o 1941, October 9Scientists Vanneavar Bush and James
Conant meet with Roosevelt and Vice President Henry A.
Wallace. The president commits to all necessary research, but
not yet developing an actual bomb.
o 1942, JuneThe Army begins the Manhattan Project to build
the atomic bomb, overseen by General Leslie Groves (1896-
1970).
Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967), the director of Los
Alamos National Lab
o Manhattan Project Stats
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Cost: Greater than $2 billion
Employed 150,000 people
Required immense amount of machinery, plant, and
other resources. Just to build the Oak Ridge,
Tennessee facility required 50 miles of railroads, 300
miles of paved roads, 42 acres worth of buildings, plus
a 2 million square foot machine shop, the gaseous
diffusion plant alone cost $100 million.
o 1945, July 16The first test atomic bomb, near Alamogordo,
New Mexico
Dropping the Bomb
o 1944, September 19Roosevelt and Churchill agree that the
new bomb “might perhaps, after mature consideration, be
used against the Japanese, who should be warned that this
bombardment will be repeated until they surrender.”
o 1945, February 13-15Dresden, Germany firebombed by the
Allies, up to 25,000 killed
o 1945, March 9Firebombing of Tokyo, 90,000 killed, 1 million
left homeless.
o 1945, March-August43% of 66 large Japanese cities
destroyed, killing as many as 900,000.
o 1945, April 12Franklin Roosevelt dies
o 1945, April 25Truman first briefed on the bomb.
o 1945 April 28Benito Mussolini assassinated
o 1945 April 30Hitler commits suicide
o 1945, May 1The Interim Committee of eight civilian officials
and four scientists discuss for ten minutes during a lunch
break having “some striking but harmless demonstration of
the bomb’s power before using it in a manner that would
result in massive loss of life.”
o 1945, May 2—The Interim Committee recommends “that the
bomb should be used against Japan as soon as possible; that
it be used on a war plant surrounded by workers’ homes; and
that it be used without prior warning.”
o 1945, May 8V-E Day
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o 1945, June 12Some Manhattan Project scientists, especially
in Chicago, try to re-open the discussion of the bomb’s use.
They sent a memo to Secretary of War Stimson’s aide and
wanted it to reach Truman but Truman never saw it.
o 1945, July 16Truman hears word at the Potsdam conference
that the atomic bomb test has proven successful.
o 1945, July 16Allies issue the Potsdam Declaration
demanding ‘unconditional surrender of all the Japanese
Armed Forces.’ The demand is rejected by the Japanese.
o 1945, August 6Hiroshima bombed, killing 40,000 instantly,
and 100,000 more in the next few days.
o 1945, August 9Nagasaki bombed, killing 70,000 total.
o 1945, August 15Hirohito announces surrender.
o Discussion Questions:
Why did Truman choose to drop the bomb when he did?
Do you think Truman’s decision as justified?
Do you think better alternatives existed?
Truman later declared: “Let there be no mistake about
it, I regarded the bomb as a military weapon and never
had any doubt that it should be used.”
Winston Churchill stated: “The historical fact remains,
and must be judged in the after-time, that the decision
whether or not to use the atomic bomb to compel the
surrender of Japan was never even an issue. There was
unanimous, automatic, unquestioned agreement around
our table; nor did I ever hear the slightest suggestion
that we should do otherwise.”
Fall of the Ivory Tower
From Ivory Tower to Military-Industrial-University Complex
o Between 1900 and 1950, three shifts occur within universities
Professors quit pursuing knowledge for knowledge’s
sake and begin researching whatever will bring in grant
money.
Professors begin to focus less on teaching students and
more on conducting research.
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