Nazi nuclear program failure

Essay by cscott17High School, 12th gradeA, February 2014

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Nazi nuclear program failure

The origins of nuclear science can be attributed to Ernest Rutherford, in 1907, who discovered the proton and later in collaboration with James Chadwick the presence of the neutron. Continuing with Rutherford's experiments with alpha particles to create nuclear elements; in1933 Pierre Joliot-Curie produced simulated radioactive elements by bombarding stable elements with alpha particles. In 1934 Fermi used neutrons instead of alpha particles with the advantage that neutrons are unaffected by the electrostatic forces within the atom's nucleus due to their neutral state. A female chemist- Noddack sent Fermi a paper suggesting that in his experiments he had split or fissioned the uranium element with the bombarding neutrons. In 1939 at the outset of World War Two, Germany was the only nation to have a nuclear research facility and the Uranverein - Uranium Club- was established. In 1939 the discovery of nuclear fission gave birth to the era of nuclear weapons development.

Germany seemed to have an enormous upper hand as nuclear fission was discovered by a German scientist - Otto Hahn. The West only became aware of this scientific development six months later. Furthermore German scientists were renowned as theoretical and experimental physicists. Germany also controlled Europe's only uranium mines with their occupation of Czechoslovakia and Belgium which added to Germany's upper hand as uranium forms the basis of the atomic bomb as the fissile material. Nazi Germany controlled Europe's sole cyclotron as well as the world's only commercial heavy water plant which were both crucial elements to the production of the atomic bomb. Thus it appeared that the German nuclear program was far better equipped and more advanced than their Western counterparts of Britain and the US.

However various crucial miscalculations made by Werner Heisenberg caused Nazi Germany's failure to manufacture an atomic...