Contemporary sketch of the atomic pile in Chicago in which the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction occurred on December 2, 1942. The pile was built by a team led by the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi in a squash court under the stands of Chicago University's Stagg Field. The pile consisted of a complex lattice of bricks of graphite & "slugs" of uranium. It was encased in a tent of balloon fabric to minimise the loss of neutrons from the pile. Demonstration of a self- sustaining chain reaction was a vital experiment in the Manhattan Project, the American programme to build the first atomic bomb.
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