The Manhattan Project

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & HistoryNational Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Los Alamos

Ben Diven's Interview

Ben Diven: All right. I’m Ben Diven. That’s spelled D-I-V-E-N. I was born and raised in northern California, and I went to school in my hometown of Chico, and fortunately there was a state college there so I could start college in my hometown. I took the two and a half years of physics and mathematics that they taught there. And then, after a break of a couple years to save enough money to be able to go to Berkeley, I then transferred to University of California at Berkeley. 

Gun Site

The Gun Site (TA-8-1) was where Manhattan Project scientists and engineers developed and tested the gun-type weapon design. The design for the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, was developed here.

The gun design was straightforward. Basically, a “bullet” of nuclear material was fired at very high speed into a second nuclear mass, creating a critical mass. This released enormous energy with an immense explosion. Scientists were confident the design would work and the gun-type bomb was not tested before it was used against Japan.

Los Alamos Ranch School

In 1918, entrepreneur Ashley Pond began an "outdoor school" at Los Alamos to provide boys a chance to gain health, strength and self-confidence. The Los Alamos Ranch School combined a rigorous outdoor experience with a college preparatory education.

Los Alamos, NM

Los Alamos, New Mexico, was the site of Project Y, or the top-secret atomic weapons laboratory directed by J. Robert Oppenheimer. The site was so secret that one mailbox, PO Box 1663, served as the mailing address for the entire town. The mountains allowed the scientists ample opportunity to relax, by skiing, swimming, and hiking. But they spent most of their time in laboratories, overcoming challenge after challenge to develop the Littly Boy (gun-type) and Fat Man (implosion) atomic bombs.

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