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Atomic Pile [layer - photograph]


Photograph taken November 1942 during construction of the first nuclear reactor as the 19th layer of graphite was added. Layer 18, almost covered in the picture, contained uranium; alternate layers of graphite containing uranium metal and uranium oxide were spaced by layers of dead graphite. Construction was carried on in this manner to the 57th layer, which was one layer beyond critical or operating dimensions. The roughly spherical form of the structure is shown as is some of the supporting framework. The reactor was constructed under a section of the West Stands of the University of Chicago's Stagg Field, and was operated for the first time December 2, 1942.


  • Atomic pile
  • Events (Historical)

Date Created



Archival Photographic Files, apf2-00502, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.



Associated Lesson

Gamma Ray History

This material is based upon work supported by NASA under Grant Nos. NNX09AD33G and NNX10AE80G issued through the SMD ROSES 2009 Program.

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