The First Pile

On December 2, 1942, in a racquets court underneath the West Stands of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, a team of scientists led by Enrico Fermi created man's first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.

Because of the extraordinary secrecy that surrounded the Manhattan Engineer District, America's $2 billion project to harness atomic energy, the postwar public was largely ignorant of its history.

The original essay on "The First Pile" was written in the fall of 1946 because nowhere in the extensive records of the Manhattan Project was there a narrative history of the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. Prepared for a press release by the Manhattan Engineer District, the report included background material which was part of the final report on a significant experiment.

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