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Citizen Kurchatov: Stalin's Bomb Maker


Werner Heisenberg

Werner HeisenbergConsidered one of the leading nuclear physicists in the world before the war, Heisenberg was drafted by the Nazis to work on the German atomic bomb project. However, unlike the physicists in the Soviet Union or America, he wasn't as optimistic about the feasibility of building a bomb. He believed the war would be long over before a bomb could be built.

When the war ended, Americans and Soviets captured the scientists involved in Germany's atomic bomb project. Both countries were surprised by how little the Germans had accomplished. Heisenberg had spent the entire war working on a nuclear reactor, but had never accomplished a chain reaction.

Heisenberg had also made two important mistakes. He calculated a critical mass for uranium that was much larger than required. He also convinced himself that German scientists were superior to other scientists, so if Germany couldn't produce a bomb, he believed no other country could succeed.

Heisenberg and the other primary scientists were captured and taken to the Farm Hill house in Britain. They were detained there for six months, and monitored without their knowledge by the British.

When the Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima the scientists were given the news by their captors, then left alone in a room with a secret microphone. These tapes were only recently declassified. On the tapes, it's apparent that Heisenberg and the other scientists were convinced that it was all a trick and they thought the Americans didn't have a real atomic bomb.



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