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Lasting legacy: Symposium focuses on the impact of the Manhattan Project and the world 75 years later

Manhattan Project employees work on the Gadget in southern New Mexico. (Courtesy of The National Museum Of Nuclear Science & History)

Seventy-five years.

That’s the amount of time that has passed since the first atomic bomb was built, tested and used.

The scientists in New Mexico contributed heavily to the project.

On Saturday, Sept. 19, The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History will host the virtual symposium, “They Changed the World: The 75th Anniversary of World War II and the Use of Atomic Weapons.”

The symposium includes two panels – the first is heavily focused on the Manhattan Project, the second is focused on the world 75 years later.

“The symposium planning has taken place over the last few years,” says Jennifer Hayden, museum deputy director. “It was supposed to be in person and we had all the speakers ready to spend some time in Albuquerque. We had to take it virtual when the pandemic hit.”

The first panel, focusing on the Manhattan Project and taking place from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19, will be dedicated to the discussions of the legacy and history of the program that created, tested, and deployed the first atomic bombs and brought forth the start of the Atomic Age.

Women work as operators during the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. (Courtesy of The National Museum Of Nuclear Science & History)

The second panel focuses on the last 75 years following the world’s first atomic testing and will take place at 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the same day. Panelists will discuss the impacts of the Manhattan Project on the latter half of the 20th century to today. The speakers will delve deeper into a discussion about why this topic is still so relevant, and they will investigate the Cold War, global energy and conflict in relation to nuclear science, and what this may mean for our future.

The world-renowned speakers for the symposium include Pulitzer Prize winner and author Richard Rhodes; founder and president of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, Cynthia Kelly; president and CEO of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Rachel Bronson; former director of Los Alamos National Laboratories, Professor Siegfried Hecker; and more.

A checkpoint to the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos.

“This critical time in American history changed the world as we know it, and we are honored to provide an entertaining and educational platform where our community can learn more,” said Jim Walther, museum executive director.

Hayden says the symposium is important because it is relevant to the museum’s mission.

“There is a whole other side of nuclear that saves lives and has carbon-free footprints,” Hayden says. “We offer the entire story of nuclear technology.”

Tickets must be purchased in advance at nuclearmuseum.org. Attending one panel session on the Zoom platform costs $25 per household or $40 to attend both panel sessions. Students receive a discount at the time of ticket purchase. For more information on the virtual symposium, visit nuclearmuseum.org.

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