I recently got into a discussion with colleagues regarding quantum mechanics and the Manhattan Project. My colleague (not a physicist) conjectured that it was mostly an engineering feat with little need for quantum mechanics.

I disagreed, arguing that it would be silly to hire some of the world's top physicists (i.e Enrico Fermi, Hans Bethe, Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, Richard Feynman, Eugene Wigner, Leo Szilard) and enlisting the assistance of others (i.e. Niels Borh) if their physics skills, especially regarding quantum mechanics, weren't needed.

Did the Manhattan project discover anything that would reasonably be considered a discovery in physics? For example, did they discover anything about radioactive decay that was not previously known?

It would also be interesting to comment on whether or not any significant problems or challenges were solved using techniques unique to physics.

NOTE ::: This has been moved to the History of Science and Mathematics.

  • $\begingroup$ Given that they all did stuff above and beyond 'quantum mechanics', why are you focused on that? Nuclear physics, accelerators, neutron physics, etc. were all important, and they did those things as well. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 9 '19 at 16:54
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, you are correct. This question came up in the discussion regarding quantum mechanics specifically, which is why I'm 'focusing' on quantum mechanics. I left both questions are open to all new physics and physics techniques. $\endgroup$ Jan 9 '19 at 16:58
  • $\begingroup$ Well, it is a big list question, so may get closed. Calutrons (Lawrence), neutron physics (Fermi), nuclear physics (Bethe), computational physics (Feynman) are some necessary areas for both fundamental understanding and actually getting the darned thing to work. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 9 '19 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ Would this question be a better fit on the History of Science and Mathematics Stackexchange? $\endgroup$
    – The Photon
    Jan 9 '19 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ Would it be sufficiently less broad if I asked specifically about achievements related to quantum mechanics? $\endgroup$ Jan 9 '19 at 18:20