Atomic Power: Coming of Age

Little more than an hour after the experiment began, Physicist Enrico Fermi performed several rapid calculations on a three-inch slide rule, then turned to the 41 scientists gathered with him on a balcony. "The reaction," announced Fermi, "is self-sustaining." In celebration, the scientists broke out a bottle of Chianti and drank it from paper cups. Thus, in a squash court on Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, the promise of an atomic age was born 25 years ago last week.

Since that shining moment of man's ascendancy over nature, the atom's...

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