Manhattan Project

"Nuclear Energy," a sculpture by Henry Moore. Photo by Blanche H. Schroer, National Park Service, May 1975.

"On December 2, 1942, man achieved here the first self-sustaining chain reaction and thereby initiated the controlled release of nuclear energy."

Chicago Pile No. 1 (CP-1) was constructed in a makeshift laboratory under the grandstand of Stagg Field Stadium at The University of Chicago. In 1965, the site was designated a registered national historic landmark. The sculpture was dedicated in 1967 on "the 25th anniversary of the first controlled generation of nuclear power, an experiment by Enrico Fermi and his colleagues." The sculpture, provided by the Trustees of the B.F.Ferguson Monument Fund of the Art Institute of Chicago, is on the east side of Ellis Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets.

The sculpture "Nuclear Energy" was unveiled at 3:36 p.m. on December 2, 1967, precisely a quarter-century after scientists at the University of Chicago achieved the first controlled self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, initiating the atomic age. The 12-foot bronze sculpture stands on the site of the University's old Stagg Field, where the experiment took place under the leadership of Enrico Fermi.

To some, it suggests the shape of the human skull or the atomic mushroom cloud. Henry Moore told a friend, however, that he hoped those viewing it would "go around it, looking out through the open spaces, and that they may have a feeling of being in a cathedral."

-adapted from The Nuclear Chain Reaction--Forty Years Later, edited by Robert G. Sachs, © 1984.

The First Reactor tells the story of Chicago Pile 1 and the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. It contains "The First Pile" by Corbin Allardice and Edward Trapnell, postwar recollections of Enrico and Laura Fermi, many photographs, and a list of suggested references.