Critical Assembly

A Technical History of Los Alamos during the Oppenheimer Years, 1943–1945

by Lillian Hoddeson, Paul W. Henriksen, Roger A. Meade, Catherine L. Westfall, Gordon Baym, Richard Hewlett, Alison Kerr, Robert Penneman, Leslie Redman,

This 1993 volume is a lucid and accurate history of the technical research that led to the first atomic bombs. The authors explore how the 'critical assembly' of scientists, engineers and military personnel at Los Alamos, responding to wartime deadlines, collaborated to create a new approach to large-scale research. The book opens with an introduction laying out major themes. After a synopsis of the prehistory of the bomb project, from the discovery of nuclear fission to the start of the Manhattan Engineer District, and an overview of the early materials programme, the book examines the establishment of the Los Alamos Laboratory, the implosion and gun assembly programmes, nuclear physics research, chemistry and metallurgy, explosives, uranium and plutonium development, confirmation of spontaneous fission in pile-produced plutonium, the thermonuclear bomb, critical assemblies, the Trinity test, and delivery of the combat weapons. Readers interested in history of science will find this volume a crucial resource for understanding the underpinnings of contemporary science and technology.
  • Cambridge University Press; May 1993
  • ISBN 9780511882876
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Critical Assembly
  • Author: Lillian Hoddeson; Paul W. Henriksen; Roger A. Meade; Catherine L. Westfall; Gordon Baym (contrib.); Richard Hewlett (contrib.); Alison Kerr (contrib.); Robert Penneman (contrib.); Leslie Redman (contrib.); Robert Seidel (contrib.)
  • Imprint: Cambridge University Press

In The Press

'Critical Assembly … is a true historical record of an epic technical venture. I strongly recommend it.' Hans A. Bethe, Physics World