A wealth of information is available regarding the 1942 breakthrough and its impact. Follow the links below to see highlights—including articles, video, and archival imagery.
“How the Atomic Age Began at UChicago”
A short video featuring archival photography and the voice of Enrico Fermi provides some context for the moment in which the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was achieved.
“How the first chain reaction changed science”
An article, video, and slideshow focus on the legacy of the 1942 breakthrough on the UChicago campus.
The Nuclear Chain Reaction—Forty Years Later: Proceedings of a University of Chicago Commemorative Symposium, edited by Robert G. Sachs
Published in 1984, this booklet records the four sessions of the symposium and provides a historical background for the breakthrough.
“Enrico Fermi and the First Self-Sustaining Nuclear Chain Reaction”
This US Department of Energy page provides a short history and list of resources regarding the breakthrough.
“Nuclear Energy by Henry Moore”
This UChicago Arts page provides information on the artist and the sculpture, which was unveiled in 1967 as a memorial to the accomplishments of Fermi and his fellow physicists—25 years after the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was achieved.
Resources from Argonne National Laboratory
The following information was created by Argonne, a multidisciplinary science and engineering research center where talented scientists and engineers work together to answer the biggest questions facing humanity, from how to obtain affordable clean energy to protecting ourselves and our environment. Born out of the University of Chicago’s work on the Manhattan Project in the 1940s, Argonne’s goal has been to make an impact—from the atomic to the human to the global scale. Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC, for the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
“Nuclear Pioneers Remember the Dawn of the Nuclear Age”
In a short video produced for the 70th anniversary of the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, two of the last surviving CP-1 pioneers, Harold Agnew and Warren Nyer, recall the historic day.
“Argonne marks 70th anniversary of first man-made nuclear reaction”
This short article explains the significance of and context for the December 2 experiment that resulted in the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.
70th Anniversary Symposium, “Dawn of the Nuclear Age”
In a video recording of Argonne’s 70th anniversary symposium, Harold Agnew and Len Koch discuss the early days of their careers and their roles in Argonne’s nuclear energy legacy with moderator Charles Till. Agnew was the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory and present when the world’s first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was achieved, and Koch was one of Argonne’s earliest staff members and a designer of the first liquid metal–cooled fast reactor.
“Chicago Pile (CP-1) 70th Anniversary”
On this page devoted to commemorating the 70th anniversary of CP-1, Argonne’s nuclear engineering division provides a list of resources and links about the breakthrough at the University of Chicago.
“Atoms Forge a Scientific Revolution”
A short article covering Argonne’s nuclear energy legacy, starting with the first nuclear reactor.
Argonne’s CP-1 Flickr Gallery
A collection of photos related to the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.
Resources from the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Chicago Library
CP-1 photos, including Manhattan Project and Metallurgical Laboratory scientists and the pile, are available.
- Individual and group scientist photos
The Photographic Archive includes individual and group photos of Manhattan Project and Metallurgical Laboratory scientists.
- Buildings and grounds
University buildings and campus views, including old Stagg Field, are available.
- Request high-res copies of photos
For each Photographic Archive image, Special Collections has a high-res scan available.
- Rights and permissions
Copies of photos from Special Collections may be used by University offices and units or for nonprofit purposes. We request only a credit line: Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.