Fermi Leads the Team to Success

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The 29-cent Congress In Session stamp was issued September 3, 1991.

On December 7, 1941, Japanese military forces attacked the American Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The following day, the United States declared war on Japan and its Axis ally Germany.

Already aware of the theories and efforts by the Germans to harness nuclear energy for weapons, President Roosevelt approved a full-scale effort to beat them to the construction of an Atomic bomb. The project was codenamed “Manhattan Project.”

Top scientists from around the country made up the team led by Enrico Fermi, an Italian immigrant and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics for his theories on nuclear fission. In November of 1942, work began in the squash courts under the west stands of Bragg Field at the University of Chicago. By early December of that same year, the crude reactor was ready for testing. On December 2, the team successfully ran the reactor for twenty-eight minutes before shutting it down. A new era in the history of mankind had begun.