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75 Years Ago, These Scientists Conducted A Nuclear Experiment That Changed The World08:59Download

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A reunion of atomic scientists in 1952 on the 10th anniversary of the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction, Dec. 2, 1942, at the University of Chicago. (Courtesy University of Chicago Photographic Archive)MoreCloseclosemore
A reunion of atomic scientists in 1952 on the 10th anniversary of the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction, Dec. 2, 1942, at the University of Chicago. (Courtesy University of Chicago Photographic Archive)

On Dec. 2, 1942, scientists from the University of Chicago created the first controlled, self-sustained nuclear chain reaction. The experiment was the first step in the development of the atomic bomb a few years later.

Eric Isaacs, executive vice president for research, innovation and national laboratories at the University of Chicago, tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson why the experiment was significant.

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A drawing of Chicago Pile 1, the nuclear reactor which scientists used to achieve the first controlled, self-sustaining chain reaction on Dec. 2, 1942. (Courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory)
A drawing of Chicago Pile 1, the nuclear reactor which scientists used to achieve the first controlled, self-sustaining chain reaction on Dec. 2, 1942. (Courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory)
Enrico Fermi, a professor of physics at the University of Chicago and 1938 Nobel Prize winner in physics. Fermi led the team of scientists which succeeded in obtaining the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction on Dec. 2, 1942. The experiment ultimately led to the development of the atomic bomb. (Courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory)
Enrico Fermi, a professor of physics at the University of Chicago and 1938 Nobel Prize winner in physics. Fermi led the team of scientists which succeeded in obtaining the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction on Dec. 2, 1942. The experiment ultimately led to the development of the atomic bomb. (Courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory)
A reunion of atomic scientists in 1946 on the fourth anniversary of the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction. Pictured in front of Bernard A. Eckhart Hall at the University of Chicago, from left (3rd row): Norman Hilberry; Samuel Allison; Thomas Brill; Robert G. Nobles; Warren Nyer; Marvin Wilkening; (2nd row): Harold Agnew; William Sturm; Harold Lichtenberger; Leona W. Marshall; Leo Szilard; (1st row): Enrico Fermi; Walter H. Zinn; Albert Wattenberg; Herbert L. Anderson. (Courtesy Life Magazine)
A reunion of atomic scientists in 1946 on the fourth anniversary of the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction. Pictured in front of Bernard A. Eckhart Hall at the University of Chicago, from left (3rd row): Norman Hilberry; Samuel Allison; Thomas Brill; Robert G. Nobles; Warren Nyer; Marvin Wilkening; (2nd row): Harold Agnew; William Sturm; Harold Lichtenberger; Leona W. Marshall; Leo Szilard; (1st row): Enrico Fermi; Walter H. Zinn; Albert Wattenberg; Herbert L. Anderson. (Courtesy Life Magazine)

This segment aired on November 28, 2017.

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