Science: First Decade

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In a squash court below the west stands of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, 42 scientists stared intently at a strange pile of graphite bricks. The time was 9:45 on a morning just ten years ago. Italian-born Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi gave the signal for the experiment to begin. A cadmium control rod was slowly drawn from position. Geiger counters clicked. Control lights flashed. The pen in an automatic recording device moved over graph paper in a rising curve. At 3:45 Dr. Fermi calmly announced: "The reaction is self-sustaining; the curve is exponential." A chain reaction had been achieved and the first decade of atomic energy had begun.

Last week, in the same squash court, surviving members of the early group of experimenters gathered to celebrate their success. Said their former director, Dr. Arthur Holly Compton, now chancellor of Washington University: "We who had the might of the atomic nucleus in our hands would have been traitors to mankind had we refused to build bombs and use them with tempered blows."