The Manhattan Project

In 1941, fearing that German scientists were developing technology to create a chain reaction, President Roosevelt approved a project to develop a new atomic military weapon. The University was chosen as a center of research for the project, and a test reactor was constructed under the code name Metallurgical Laboratory (Met Lab). The nuclear reaction Chicago Pile-1 was demonstrated in 1942 in the squash court beneath the west stands of Stagg Field just north of 57th Street.

Eckhart and Ryerson were both commandeered throughout the project for research activities and their laboratories were taken over and refashioned for experiments related to the work. Other rooms were used for project meetings. Top-secret discussions were sometimes held under the “Counsel Tree” on the Quad in front of Eckhart.

Reunion of atomic scientists

University of Chicago Photographic Archive. Identifier: apf3-00232

Reunion of atomic scientists on the 4th Anniversary (1946) of the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction, December 2, 1942. Pictured in front of Bernard A. Eckhart Hall at the University of Chicago, from left (3rd row): Norman Hilberry; Samuel Allison; Thomas Brill; Robert G. Nobles; Warren Nyer; Marvin Wilkening; (2nd row): Harold Agnew; William Sturm; Harold Lichtenberger; Leona W. Marshall; Leo Szilard; (1st row): Enrico Fermi; Walter H. Zinn; Albert Wattenberg; Herbert L. Anderson.

Counsel Tree

University of Chicago Photographic Archive. Identifier: apf1-00203

Herbert L. Anderson, professor of Physics at the University of Chicago, stands near the elm tree.

Reunion of atomic scientists in 1962

University of Chicago Photographic Archive. Identifier: apf3-00239