Important Manhattan Project research was conducted at Columbia University’s Pupin Hall (right) and Schermerhorn Hall. World-class physicists, including Nobel Prize winners Isidor I. Rabi and Enrico Fermi, joined Columbia’s research team to investigate the relatively new science of atomic particles. Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard first realized the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction in 1933, and against the backdrop of escalating hostilties in Europe, the race began to harness the enormous energy within the atom.
Hanford, Washington, on the beautiful Columbia River, was the site selected for the full-scale plutonium production plant, the B Reactor. Today a popular tourist desination, the Hanford Site proved crucial to the success of the Manhattan Project.
One of the most important branches of the Manhattan Project was the Metallurgical Laboratory (Met Lab) in Chicago. Using the name "Metallurgical Laboratory" as cover at the University of Chicago, scientists from the east and west coasts were brought together to this central location to develop chain-reacting "piles" for plutonium production, to devise methods for extracting plutonium from the irradiated uranium, and to design a weapon. In all, four methods of plutonium separation were considered, with the bismuth phosphate process displaying the most promise.