The Atom Bomb


  • Intro

    In 1939 the American and British governments became concerned that Nazi Germany was planning to develop an atomic bomb - a weapon of mass destruction that could produce explosions on a scale never before imagined. In response to this concern, both the US and the UK started secret projects to develop their own atomic bombs.


    Joseph Rotblat, who can be heard in this interview, was a Polish scientist. He left Poland two days before Nazi Germany invaded and began working in Britain, where he carried out tests on the feasibility of a nuclear bomb. As this interview reveals, he was fully aware of the moral questions involved in creating a weapon of such terrible power, but his conviction that Nazi Germany was developing their own version of the bomb convinced him of the necessity of continuing. Work on the Atom Bomb continued in America from 1942 under the name of the Manhattan Project and Rotblat moved there to be part of it.


    In 1944, after discovering that Germany did not have nuclear weapons but that the project continued, Rotblat resigned from the Manhattan Project in protest. In August 1945 the US dropped two atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing well over 150,000 people. To date, they are the only nuclear weapons that have ever been used in warfare, although nuclear war was narrowly avoided during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 and over 200,000 test explosions have taken place since 1945. Rotblat dedicated the rest of his life to teaching the public about the horrific consequences of nuclear destruction.


    This photograph, taken on 1 July 1946, shows one of the US test detonations of the atom bomb on the Pacific Island of Bikini Atoll. Image Copyright: Getty Images

  • Audio

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