The Atomic Age: The Discovery and Evolution of Nuclear Science

A Linda Hall Library Online Exhibition

The atomic age began with a handful of scientists investigating radioactivity decades before the first atomic bomb exploded at the Trinity Test Site in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. In this three-part exhibition explore the history of atomic science, expand your nuclear physics knowledge, and discover how radiation is part of our daily lives.

  • Did you know that the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction occurred under a football stadium? Find out more by exploring a timeline of scientific breakthroughs in nuclear science from the discovery of x-rays in the late 19th century through post-World War II advances in modern nuclear applications.
  • What are isotopes? What is the difference between fission and fusion? Discover the answer to these and other questions about nuclear physics concepts and terminology in “It’s a Question of Physics.”
  • Are you curious about radiation in your environment? Answer questions about where you live, where you work, and where you play to reveal information about normal sources of radiation that we encounter in our daily lives.

The Atomic Age online exhibition is made possible through the generous support of KCP&L. The gallery exhibition was on display at the Linda Hall Library from October 6, 2010, to March 11, 2011.


Curated by Nancy V. Green and Eric Ward

Röntgen ray image from Sitzungsberichte der Wurzburger Physikalisch-Medicinischen Gesellschaft.

Ernest Lawrence photograph from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives.

Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg photograph by Paul Ehrenfest, Jr., courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Weisskopf Collection.

Hanford officials photograph courtesy Hagley Museum and Library.

Calutron girl photograph by Ed Westcott, Manhattan Project Photographer, Oak Ridge Tennessee, courtesy of the Y-12 National Security Complex History Center at Oak Ridge.

Light from atomic energy photograph by Ed Westcott, Atomic Energy Commission, Oak Ridge Tennessee, courtesy of the Y-12 National Security Complex History Center at Oak Ridge.

Timeline and “It’s a Question of Physics” designed and illustrated by Nancy V. Green.

Radiation questionnaire designed by 305 Spin, Inc.

Online exhibition produced by 305 Spin, Inc.