The day Einstein wrote that mass and energy are the same; that each body has a total energy – irrespective of its relative motion – equal to its mass multiplied by the square of the speed of light,
the scientific world realized that there is a way to bring about massive destruction. By Einstein’s law, Energy (in Joules) is simply mass (in KG) multiplied 90 Trillion times! Having proclaimed this ground-shattering theory, Einstein retrained from having anything to do with the deadly child of his theoretical finding – the atomic bomb.
He tried, along with Mahatma Gandhi and Bertrand Russell, but vainly, to put an end to world war II and for peaceful resolution of matters of dispute.
First nuclear fission of heavy elements in a laboratory was demonstrated in December 1938 in Germany by Otto Hahn andby bombarding uranium with neutrons.
Another German scientist engaged in the field,, a Jewish nuclear scientist and head of the department in Kaiser William Investiture of Chemistry had to run away from Germany under cover to Netherlands. Lise’s nephew, , who escaped to Britain earlier could be called the father of the atomic bomb. Lise and Frisch published their findings separately lest Hitler’s men get a headway in the new technology of carnage. Many other Jewish scientists in the field were dismissed and had emigrated earlier. There is little doubt that Hitler’s inability to develop a nuclear bomb in time to win the war had much to do with his persecution of Jews and driving them out from Austria and Germany. We would never know how many potential nuclear scientists he had gassed, shot or starved to death.
It must be mentioned, however, that Hahn, Meitner, and Strassmann had nothing to do with atomic weapons research. Otto Hahn, who won the Nobel Prize in 1944 for Chemistry, was surprised and pained that his findings resulted in the development of weapons of mass destruction.
When Roosevelt had consented the development of an atomic bomb, Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist, was appointed the head of the project named ‘Manhattan Project”, although none of the three wings of the project was stationed in Manhattan, New York. The first bombs – the failed Thin Man and grossly (from a scientific point of view) inefficient Little Boy which destroyed Hiroshima and somewhat equally inefficient Fat Man that brought destruction to Nagasaki were the products of laboratory work done by two men named Robert – theoretical scientist Robert Oppenheimer and his favourite disciple, Robert Serber. Oppenheimer tried making the first bombs in compartmental fashion in three different places (Oak Ridge in Tennessee; Hanford in Washington; and Los Alamos in New Mexico) so that the workers and technicians did not have the full blue print; but later this practice was given up as too cumbersome.
Oppenheimer was given to reciting verses from the Hindu scripture, Bhagavad Gita. Witnessing the first explosion of his creation (which, many of his colleagues had assured him will never go off) in 1945, Oppenheimer quoted the Bhagavad Gita “ I’m the shatterer and destroyer of all” (Gita, 11:32). Oppenheimer’s theoretical findings are quoted by Einstein in his works on the Theory of Relativity. Though nominated three times, and the proposer and the founder of Atomic Energy Agency, he never won a Nobel prize either for his scientific work or for its deadly application.
Oppenheimer was a Jew born of immigrant parents, but, unlike Einstein,or Frisch, he was not a self-exile from Nazi Germany. Robert Serber was not a Jew, but just because his wife was of Jewish origin, both these theoretical scientists-turned nuclear weapon makers whose work won the war for the United States came under suspicion in later years. Theories are never a secret; it is the process of application that had to be kept secret. It also happens that the Americans had more immigrant brains than the rest of the world.
The end of the second world war resulted in a predictable re-alignment of enemies and allies. Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin sat together and agreed to divide the world into two halves while holding daggers behind their backs. Stalin was not one who felt jubilant at the American success in the war by nuking Japan twice over. The Soviets were already suspicious of the nuclear projects in Britain and Canada apart from America, but the live dual demonstration of the ferocity of the bombs made it necessary for the Soviets to rush the making of their own bombs. No doubt, much spying of each other by ‘allies’ was going on even during the war. Thus four years after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki events of massive torching of humans and properties, Russians detonated their first implosion-type bomb in Kazakh on 29th August, 1949. Thus began the arms race.
Once the feasibility of the bombs were established, it was not difficult for teams of scientists, engineers and technicians to work together and create nuclear weapons of greater and yet greater destructive power. The basic fissile element used in atomic reactors to generate electricity and what could be used in a bomb is the same. The only difference was in the percentage of purity. Uranium is found in nature with 0.72% U-235 purity; nuclear reactors need 3–4% purity and weapon grade requires up to 90% pure U-235. Much of the technological secret lies in purification process – which, though well-known, does not merit our discussion.
Basic atomic bombs gave way to more powerful ‘Hydrogen; or nuclear bombs. Spread of nuclear reactor technology – a necessity in the modern energy-hungry world made sale and exchange of radio-active nuclear materials among nations became possible although the nations that possess the weapons are jealous of those who try to get hold of them. International Atomic Energy Agency which was established to promote and educate on the peaceful use of atomic energy, also functions as a monitor on attempts by nations to misuse the technology for developing the bomb. No longer able to contain the spread of the technology, the nuclear haves try to restrict and/or restrain its spread among supposed have-nots through controls, sanctions and withholding of fissile elements.
There is little doubt that Israel got much of its technical know-how from the United States; the Western nations – Great Britain, France and Russia apart from the US are supposed to have developed their own nuclear weapon technology. It is quite probable that the Soviet Union and China had interchanged technical know how in their heydays of socialist fellowship.
As early as June 1946, the future Prime Minister of Independent India had announced the intention that India will independently develop nuclear technology and use it, if necessary, for defence purposes. He said:
“We must develop this atomic energy quite apart from war — indeed I think we must develop it for the purpose of using it for peaceful purposes. … Of course, if we are compelled as a nation to use it for other purposes, possibly no pious sentiments of any of us will stop the nation from using it that way.”
India’s Homi Bhaba, encouraged by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, founded the Institute of Fundamental research which culminated in the detonation of a nuclear bomb on 18 May 1974 under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, Nehru’s daughter and the then Prime Minister of India. Mrs. Gandhi, who named the project “Smiling Buddha” insisted that the test was intended for peaceful purposes. The plutonium used in the “peaceful bomb” that was tested underground in the deserts of Pokharan in the State of Rajasthan, it is alleged, was what was supplied by Canada for the ‘Cyrus. reactor”. India later vowed that it would never put a nuclear bomb for “First use”.
As for nuclear-arming of the rest of the world, Encyclopaedia Britannica states:
“Abdul Qadeer Khan, also known as A.Q. Khan (born April 1, 1936,, ) Pakistani engineer, a key figure in Pakistan’s program who was also involved for decades in a black market of nuclear and know-how whereby -enrichment centrifuges, nuclear warhead designs, missiles, and expertise were sold or traded to Iran, North Korea, Libya, and possibly other countries.”
The above passage is quoted ad-verbatim.