Chronography of Atomic Bomb Development and Tests
Page last modified 8/11/2022
9/9/2003. Edward Teller, the scientist known as the father of the H-bomb, died aged 95. Teller was born in Hungary and fled Hitler�s rule to work on the Manhattan Project in the USA to develop atomic weapons. He produced the bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which brought about Japan�s surrender and the end of World War Two. However Teller had argued for exploding this atomic bomb high in the skies above Tokyo, where it would do no damage but �shock and awe� the population into surrender. Robert Oppenhiemer, the scientist in charge of building the Japanese A-bombs, disagreed with Teller. Later, Teller persuaded President Harry Truman of the need to develop a more powerful H-bomb. This was tested at 7am on 31/10/1952. The fireball was larger than expected, frightening observers; the entire island of Elugelab, a mile across, vanished. The blast was 500 times more powerful than the Hiroshima blast of 1945. Two years later an even bigger bomb was exploded at Bikini Atoll, making it as sparse as the garment it gave its name to. Soon, however, the Russians had their own H-bomb. Oppenheimer, having seen the damage at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, disagreed with building the H-bomb, saying the A-bomb was powerful enough for America�s purposes. This led the USA to suspect Oppenheimer of disloyalty and Communist sympathies at the time of the McCarthy witch hunts. Oppenheimer died in 1967, aged 62. Teller was admired by President Ronald Reagan, whose election Teller described as �a miracle for Western civilisation�. The �Star Wars� defensive shield for the USA was Teller�s idea, enthusiastically adopted by Reagan. This was a set-back to the USSR, already suffering financially from its efforts to keep up militarily with the USA, and Star Wars may have even hastened the break-up of the Soviet Union. Teller saw his native Hungary suffer first Fascist, then Communist, tyranny; he saw the USA as a bastion of freedom, and the H-bomb as its �trusty sword�. At the time of his death, Teller, father of two, was a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institute in Stanford, USA. Although Mr Teller lived modestly, liking playing the piano and tennis, he persuaded the USA to spend billions on nuclear weapons, on Star wars, and on nuclear shelters in case of nuclear war. Most of this is now scrap, but the dividend for the USA was the collapse of Soviet Communism.
24/9/1996, The USA and other nuclear powers signed a treaty halting all testing of nuclear weapons, above or below ground. The USA alone had conducted 1,030 such t4ests since 1945, creating serious health hazards both locally and globally.
29/1/1996, France bowed to international pressure and announced it had ended the current series of atomic tests at Mururoa Atoll in the south Pacific.
5/9/1995, France exploded a 10-kiloton nuclear device under the Pacific atoll of Mururoa. Anti-French riots broke out in Papeete, the capital of Tahiti, necessitating French paratroopers to be sent in to maintain order. Australia and new Zealand condemned the test, and there were fears of a worldwide boycott of French exports.
11/2/1987, The US tested an atom bomb in Nevada.
9/8/1981, In the USA, President Reagan announced the decision to proceed with the neutron bomb.
7/7/1977, The first test of the USA�s neutron (enhanced-radiation) bomb.
18/5/1974. India exploded its first nuclear bomb. Pakistan, which lost its third war with India in 1970, was nervous.
21/7/1973, France resumed nuclear tests at Mururoa Atoll, despite protests from Australia and New Zealand.
18/3/1972, China conducted an atmospheric nuclear test.
26/3/1970, The US carried out its 500th nuclear test explosion in Nevada.
25/8/1968, The French exploded their first Hydrogen Bomb.
18/2/1967, Robert Oppenheiner, American scientist who developed the US atom bomb, died in Princeton, New Jersey.
2/7/1966, France exploded its 5th atomic bomb at Mururoa Atoll.
8/5/1966, China exploded a third thermonuclear bomb.
14/5/1965, China exploded its second nuclear bomb.
16/10/1964, China exploded its first nuclear bomb, near Lop Nor, Sinkiang.
5/12/1962, Britain exploded a thermonuclear device underground in Nevada.
21/1/1962 . It was announced that, 20 years after the birth of the atomic Age, the world now possessed 280 atomic bombs, 40 of them in Britain
3110/1961, The USSR detonated a 50-megaton yield hydrogen bomb known as Tsar Bomba over Novaya Zemlya, the largest man-made explosion ever. Too large to be fit inside even the largest available warplane, the weapon was suspended from a Tupolev Tu-95 piloted by A.E. Durnovtsev, a Hero of the Soviet Union. A parachute slowed the bomb's descent so that the airplane could have time to climb away from the fireball, and at an altitude of four kilometres, was exploded at 8:33 AM GMT Although the news drew protests around the world, the event was not reported in the Soviet press. The �Tsar Bomba� (King Bomb) yielded the equivalent of 59 million tonnes of TNT, some 3,000 times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. There was nothing to be gained from more powerful nuclear bombs as they would simply punch up through the Earth�s atmosphere and most of the yield would be lost to space.
13/2/1960. France exploded its first atom bomb, in the Sahara.
20/9/1958, The USSR performed a nuclear test at Novaya Zemlya
17/8/1958, Britain announced plans to resume Atom Bomb testing on Christmas Island.
8/4/1958, President Eisenhower of the USA proposed mutual inspections as a means of enforcing the mutual Test Ban.
15/5/1957. Britain�s first H Bomb was exploded on Christmas Island in the southern Pacific Ocean.
10/5/1957, The USSR appealed to the US and Britain to cease nuclear tests.
23/4/1957, Albert Schweitzer write to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, urging mobilisation of world opinion against nuclear tests.
17/2/1955, The UK Government announced it would proceed with the manufacture of H-Bombs.
1/3/1954, A US test of a 12 megaton hydrogen bomb exposed 23 Japanese fishermen, 70 to 90 miles away, to such severe radiation that one subsequently died. The bomb, weighing ten tons, named Bravo, was expected to deliver just 5 megatons and so the 10,000 observers were relatively near and the Marshall Islands, 100 miles away, were not evacuated. Some Marshall islanders also suffered radiation sickness. In the event the bomb delivered 15 megatons, the fireball was 4 miles across, and the heat could easily be felt 30 miles away. America now realised that just one Hydrogen Bomb could obliterate a major city such as New York.
12/8/1953. The USSR tested its first hydrogen bomb, in the Pacific.� Moscow announced the test explosion on 20/8/1953.� Both superpowers now had them.
7/1/1953, US President Harry Truman announced that the US now had a Hydrogen Bomb, a thousand times more powerful than the Atom Bomb.
1/11/1952, The USA exploded its first hydrogen bomb at Eniwetok Atoll, Pacific Ocean.
3/10/1952. The first British Atomic Bomb exploded, aboard a ship in the Monte Bello Islands, in the Pacific off north west Australia. The ship was almost totally vaporised, apart from a few hot fragments which fell on neighbouring islands, starting fires. Watching news reporters felt the blast 4 minutes 15 seconds after the flash, from a distance of 65 miles.
26/2/1952, Winston Churchill announced that Britain had produced its own atom bomb.
31/1/1950. President Truman told US scientists to make an H-Bomb.
23//9/1949, The USSR conducted its first atom bomb test. The USA no longer had a monopoly on these weapons of mass destruction.
19/4/1948, The USA tested a plutonium bomb at Eniwetok Atoll.
1/7/1946. The first US atom bomb test at Eniwetok Atoll. A second test with an underwater bomb was on 25/7/1946.
22/3/1946, US President Truman announced that atom bomb tests at Bikini Atoll scheduled for 15 May 1946 had now been postponed for 6 weeks.
7/3/1946, The 167 residents of Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, were evacuated from their South Pacific island in order for atomic testing to begin.
24/1/1946, The USA selected Bikini Atoll as a testing site for the effects of atomic bombs on warships.
18/7/1945, The first atom bomb explosion was achieved, at Alamogordo, USA.
6/11/1945. The USSR said it would build its own atom bomb.
3/3/1939, In the USA, Szilard bombarded beryllium with alpha particles emitted from radium which produced neutrons and the� exposed uranium to these neutrons. This demonstrated that an atom bomb was feasible.
15/1/1905, Edward Teller, who developed the Hydrogen Bomb in 1952, was born to Jewish parents in Budapest.