Edge of Darkness: Fission
Nuclear power and nuclear weapons
This year sees the 60th anniversary of the world's first civil nuclear power plant at Sellafield, and also the 20th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident at Chernobyl in Ukraine. Here we highlight the papers of scientists, engineers, military personnel, politicians, and others involved in the development of nuclear weapons or nuclear power.
We are also highlighting the papers of scientists, politicians and campaigners, as well as the records of organisations who have sought to limit or end the use of nuclear weapons or nuclear power. This month's feature is divided into two sections: Critical and the descriptions listed on this page, Fission.
- Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937): formulated the concept of the nuclear atom; Professor of Physics at the University of Manchester; awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry.
- Clement Attlee (1883-1967): Labour Prime Minister, 1945-1951; brought about the British nuclear power and nuclear weapons programmes.
- Frederick Alexander Lindemann (1886-1957): physicist and politician; advised the Government on nuclear energy.
- G. P. Thomson (1892-1975): Nobel Prize-winning physicist who developed an interest in nuclear weapons research in the late 1930s.
- Egon Bretscher (1901-1973): chemist and nuclear physicist, involved in the British atom bomb research project codenamed 'Tube Alloys', and took part in the Manhattan Project, a collaborative effort by U.S., British, Canadian and French scientists to create a nuclear fission bomb.
- Percival Napier White (1901-1982): Major General White studied the potential tactical use of the atom bomb for SHAPE (Supreme HQ Allied Powers Europe).
- Otto Frisch (1904-1979): coined the term 'nuclear fission'; important figure in the both the Tube Alloys project and in the Manhattan Project; later head of Britain's Atomic Energy Research Establishment at Harwell.
- Edward Crisp Bullard (1907-1980): marine geophysicist who originally studied nuclear physics under Ernest Rutherford; interested in energy sources and nuclear waste disposal, and in the detection of underground nuclear explosions.
- Heinz London (1907-1970): physicist who worked on the 'Tube Alloys' project; later Deputy Chief Scientist, Atomic Energy Research Establishment.
- Rudolf Ernst Peierls (1907-1995): theoretical physicist, contributed to the Manhattan Project and witnessed the first atomic bomb explosion.
- William Melville McCutcheon (1911-1983): Colonel in the Royal Army Medical Corps; attended the 'Buffalo' British nuclear weapons tests at Maralinga, Australia, in 1956.
- Leonard Rotherham (1913-2001): physicist and metallurgist; director of research for United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA); played an important role in setting up Calder Hall and Dounreay nuclear reactors.
- Richard Loughnan White (1913-1992): Colonel in the Royal Engineers; involved in the British atom bomb tests, Christmas Island, in 1958.
- David Joseph Bohm (1917-1992): physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project.
- John McGregor Hill (born 1921): worked on the nuclear reactors at Windscale, built for the production of plutonium for military purposes, and the site of Britain's worst nuclear accident in 1957.
- Donald Watts Davies (1924-2000): computer scientist involved in the Tube Alloys project
- Alec Merrison (1924-1989): nuclear physicist, researcher at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment; also investigated harnessing the tidal energy of the Severn Estuary.
- Vickers: produced the first British nuclear submarine, launched in 1960, and the 'Valiant' V-bomber, the first British nuclear bomber, in 1955.
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- The Zuckerman Archive: World War II Papers: detailed descriptions of the papers (University of East Anglia)
- Nuclear History Research Guide: a guide to sources of nuclear history in the Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives (King's College London)
- Los Alamos in Colour: photographs by Egon Bretscher (Churchill Archives Centre)
- Screenonline: Bikini - the atomic bomb [World Pictorial News] (1946) (British Film Institute)
- Public Information films: Atomic Achievement (1956); The Blue Streak Rocket (1964); Protect & Survive – Action After Warnings (1975); Protect & Survive – Casualties (1975) (The National Archives)
- Springfields' 60th anniversary: the world's first commercial nuclear power programme was launched in 1946 (Springfields, Lancashire)
- Sellafield Visitors Centre: educational exhibitions (Sellfield, Cumbria)
- Learning Curve: Cold War: Nuclear Bunker: looks at the Cold War bunker at Furze Hill, Essex
- Subterranea Britannica: Cold War: hundreds of Cold War sites in the UK, including Royal Air Force Holmpton
- Royal Air Force Holmpton: project to record all underground defence establishments built in the British Isles since 1945; also provides guided tours of the Preserved Heritage Areas of the Command Bunker's site at Withernsea, Yorkshire (official website)
- Timeline: history of British nuclear weapons (Atomic Weapons Establishment website)
- United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority: developed nuclear power stations, and now involved in their decommissioning
- Cavendish Laboratory: Department of Physics at Cambridge University; researchers have included Otto Frisch and Ernest Rutherford (University of Cambridge)
- Dalton Nuclear Institute: nuclear research and education (The University of Manchester)