On This Day

hydrogen bomb, thermonuclear bomb, operation castle
United States Department of Energy
An explosion from a thermonuclear test in 1954.

On This Day: US Completes First Test of Hydrogen Bomb

November 01, 2011 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Nov. 1, 1952, the United States conducted its first test of a thermonuclear weapon, beginning a new era of nuclear weapons.

The Teller-Ulam Design

The origins of the hydrogen bomb date back to 1941, when Italian-born physicist Enrico Fermi suggested to the Hungarian-born Edward Teller that such a bomb was possible. Teller advocated for the Manhattan Project, the effort to build the atomic bomb, to build a hydrogen “super bomb” instead, and even disregarded some of his assigned work on the atomic bomb to study the hydrogen bomb.

After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the end of the war, the U.S. government did not pursue the development of the hydrogen bomb. It was not until the Soviets successfully detonated an atomic bomb in 1949 that President Truman ordered the creation of a hydrogen bomb project.

Teller developed a model for the hydrogen bomb with the help of Polish mathematician Stanislaw Ulam; the design is known as the Teller-Ulam design. Scientists constructed a three-story structure, known as “Mike,” on the island of Elugelap in the Eniwetok atoll. Mike was not a typical bomb, as it had not practical use in warfare; it was simply intended to test the principles of the Teller-Ulam design and allow scientists to progress in building a smaller bomb.

The Mike bomb exploded with a yield of 10.4 megatons and generated a fireball more than three miles wide. It wiped out the island of Elugelap and parts of nearby islands.

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