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Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of Chicago Pile 1 (CP-1)

Argonne OutLoud on Nuclear Energy

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Met Lab & Argonne’s Early History

Those early days as we remember them at Argonne National Lab
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Those early days as we remember them

From the Metallurgical Laboratory to Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne traces its birth from Enrico Fermi's secret charge — the Manhattan Project — to create the world's first self-sustaining nuclear reaction. Code-named the "Metallurgical Lab", the Manhattan Project team constructed Chicago Pile-1, which achieved criticality on December 2, 1942, underneath the University of Chicago's Stagg football field stands. Because the ensuing research experiments were deemed too dangerous to conduct in a major city, the operations were moved to "Site A" in a forest preserve near Palos Hills and eventually renamed "Argonne" after the surrounding forest.

On July 1, 1946, the laboratory was formally chartered as Argonne National Laboratory to conduct "cooperative research in nucleonics." At the request of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, it began developing nuclear reactors for the nation's peaceful nuclear energy program. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the laboratory moved to a larger location in Lemont, Illinois, and established a remote location in Idaho, called "Argonne-West," to conduct further nuclear research.

In 1971, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Argonne's charter, the Argonne News published a series of recollections titled "Those early days as we remember them" by former or current staff members who had worked at the Metallurgical Lab and participated in the birth of Argonne. Many shared unique memories of this special time that can't be found in history books. Below is a listing of the authors and the date their stories were published in Argonne News:

January 1971 — Austin M. Brues, Nora L. Watson, Mary L. Erickson, Ace L. Singleton, Mary K. Walsh

February-March 1971 — Lester C. Furney, Arthur H. JaHey, Leonard Bogorad

April 1971 — James F. Schumar, John L. Armstrong, David E. Walker, J. Howard Kittel, George O'Keefe, Maurice D. Odie

May 1971 — William P. Norris (from a tape recording made in 1965)

June 1971 — Farrington Daniels

July-August 1971 — Lester C. Furney

September 1971 — Norman Hilberry

November 1971 — Elmer W. Rylander

Those early days as we remember them
Next: Part I

Celebrating Chicago Pile 1 70th anniversary

Related Information


  • CP-1 Flickr Gallery (by Argonne National Laboratory)
  • Argonne nuclear pioneers: Chicago Pile 1 on YouTube (by Argonne National Laboratory) On December 2, 1942, 49 scientists, led by Enrico Fermi, made history when Chicago Pile 1 (CP-1) went critical and produced the world's first self-sustaining, controlled nuclear chain reaction. Seventy years later, two of the last surviving CP-1 pioneers, Harold Agnew and Warren Nyer, recall that historic day.

Last Modified: Tue, September 24, 2013 3:48 PM

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