Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

More than 30,000 photos of scientists and their work

University of Chicago H8

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University of Chicago H8

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We charge a usage fee per photo if the photo is published, reproduced in a product or publicly exhibited. This is not a license in the legal sense. As a non-profit institution, we do not make any money providing these photographs. It is only by assessing usage fees that we are able to cover the cost of providing publication quality copies of our photos, preserving the photograph collection according to archival standards, and providing access to the collection by maintaining an online image database. The copyright holder may charge a fee in addition to our service fee.

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Image title: 
Nuclear reactor graphite block
Credit line: 
Argonne National Laboratory, courtesy of AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

The world's first nuclear reactor during assembly in a racquets court under the West Stands of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, November, 1942.

Photograph shows the 7th layer of graphite blocks and edges of the 6th layer which contained 3 1/ 4 in. pseudospheres of black uranium oxide (U3O8). Alternate layers of graphite, containing uranium-metal fuel and/or uraniumoxide fuel, were separated by layers of solid graphite blocks. The completed structure was S 7 layers high.

On December 2, 1942, the pile (reactor) reached criticality and the chain reaction became self sustaining, thereby initiating the controlled release of nuclear energy. The experiment was conducted by a team of scientists led by the late Enrico Fermi.

Original format: 
1 photographic print (black and white; 8.5 x 11 inches)