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    University of Chicago: Relic Display of First Successful Nuclear Fission Experiment. The world's first nuclear reactor was called "Chicago Pile-1" (CP-1) and was constructed in November 1942 under the supervision of Enrico Fermi and six other scientists. It was placed under the west reviewing stand on Stagg Field. On December 2, 1942, the first human-made self-sustaining nuclear reaction was initiated in CP-1. The reactor operated at very low power and had no radiation shields or cooling system. Nuclear fission occurred when free atoms from the natural decay of uranium were absorbed by other uranium atoms, causing the release of additional free neutrons. The following year, CP-1 was moved and upgraded, continuing operation before being dismantled and buried in 1954. The stands at Stagg Field were demolished in 1957.

    The display we are offering was recently acquired at an estate sale in Chicago. Although there is no documentation accompanying the lot, we feel it to be, given its source and age, an artifact directly related to this first successful attempt at nuclear fission. We believe the components were either actually used in the experiment or were spare parts available for the use of the scientists involved. It was likely assembled circa 1943-1945 to commemorate both the experiment and the development of the first atomic bomb.

    The objects are housed in a shadow box frame that measures 12.5" across, 10" tall and 4.5" deep. The back panel is held in place by six screws. The top of the display board has a typed index card with the "Atomic Fission Chain Reaction Formulae". In the middle, we have a section of "Cadmium. A retardant used on the first self-sustaining chain reacting Atomic Pile - Dec. 2, 1942 located on the floor of the squash court under the West Stands of Stagg Field University of Chicago". Next to that we have a chunk of "Carnotite Ore. A Primary Source of Uranium Neptonium Plutonium". Beneath that is a glass tube with imbedded copper wires, described as a "Tube for Geiger-Mueller Counter for Detecting & Measuring Alpha, Beta & Gamma Radiations Resulting From Atomic Fission". A brass plaque on the lower frame is inscribed "Essentials For Constructing The First Atomic Bomb Dropped on Hiroshimo [sic] Japan August 5, 1945".

    We believe the display may have been assembled sometime in 1943 and the plaque added later, or the entire display may have been put together in the summer of 1945. It is a very significant relic related to world events and our nuclear age.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    August, 2018
    25th-26th Saturday-Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,726

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