Atomic Birmingham

The Times has reported on the developing appeal of the Nuclear industry, The nuclear option looks good, with the UK's most longestablished programme on Nuclear technology at The University of Birmingham attracting the highest number of students in the course's 52 year history.

This autumn more than 40 students enrolled on the programme, which was originally established three weeks before the opening of the UK’s first nuclear power station, Calder Hall, in 1956. Nearly 600 students have graduated from the course over the past half century.

Birmingham University's link to the develoment of Atomic Power and particularly the Atomic Bomb is perhaps less well known.

The remaining piece of the fission/atomic bomb concept was provided in 1939 by Francis Perrin who introduced the concept of the critical mass of uranium required to produce a self-sustaining release of energy. His theories were extended by Professor Peierls at Birmingham University and the resulting calculations were of considerable importance in the development of the atomic bomb

Otto Frisch and Rudolph Peierls who had escaped from Nazi Germany wrote the Frisch-Peierls memorandum at the University of Birmingham. The memorandum contained new calculations on the size of the critical mass needed for an atomic bomb and supported the developing work by British and American scientists leading to the Manhattan Project and the creation of the Atomic Bomb. As they were both regarded as 'enemy aliens' they were unable to work on the top secret radar research taking place at Birmingham and instead developed the memorandum themselves.

The opening section of the Memorandum.

The Frisch-Peierls Memorandum must rank as one of the most historic documents of the 20th Century. Not only is the Frisch-Peierls Memorandum remarkable as the first technical exposition of an atomic weapon, the two authors also considered the military and ethical consequences of such a super-bomb in a simple but profound way.
Andrew Brown, A Tale of Two Documents in Remembering the Manhattan Project : Perspectives on the Making of the Atomic Bomb and it's legacy, 2005, Page 44; edited by Cynthia C. Kelly.

The BBC reported on the link between Birmingham and the Bomb in an article from 2000 - Brum and the Bomb.


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