The original development and deployment of nuclear weapons by the United States was one of the largest, if not the largest, scientific endeavors in the history of humankind. This project not only involved some very difficult chemistry, physics and engineering challenges, but also a significant amount of politics and espionage. A brief history of the Manhattan Project will be presented that includes historical perspective and the science behind nuclear weapons. The first three nuclear weapons to be detonated will be discussed in detail. Modern weapon design will also be briefly discussed.
Dr. John Leyba received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State University) in 1986 and obtained his Ph.D. in nuclear chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1990. He held the positions of Senior Scientist, Senior Scientist A, and Principal Scientist with Westinghouse Savannah River Company at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site between 1990 and 2000. In addition, he was the Radiochemistry Group Leader for Rust Federal Services’ Clemson Technical Center located in Anderson, SC. He also held an appointment as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Chemistry Department and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Engineering and Science at Clemson University. From 2000 to 2002, Dr. Leyba was the Denver Area Director of Operations for Canberra Industries, helping with the decommissioning efforts of the Department of Energy’s Rocky Flats site. Dr. Leyba joined the faculty of Newman University in Wichita, KS in 2002. He left Newman in 2014 as a Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Division of Science and Mathematics. Dr. Leyba joined the faculty of the University of North Georgia in 2014 as a Professor of Chemistry and Head of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. He served in this capacity until July of 2018. In January of 2018, Dr. Leyba became the Associate Dean of the College of Science & Mathematics at UNG. In February of 2019, Dr. Leyba became the Interim Dean of the College of Science & Mathematics at UNG. Dr. Leyba’s research interests involve fast chemical separations and detection of radioactive materials. Dr. Leyba has authored multiple books and lab manuals, 30 peer-reviewed publications, 24 professional presentations, and 22 technical reports. In addition, Dr. Leyba was on the team that discovered Mendelevium-253, a new isotope of element 101. Finally, Dr. Leyba has a passion for science in general and specifically for space-related discoveries. Dr. Leyba has personally met four of the twelve moon walkers.