Past Event

Alex Wellerstein - The ‘Best-Kept Secret of the War’?: The Successes and Failures of the Manhattan Project’s Secrecy Regime

November 20, 2019
6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
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NYU Gallatin (Room 801), 1 Washington Place, New York

Event Description:

In the wake of the bombing of Hiroshima, the Manhattan Project was lauded by the press as the “best-kept secret of the war.” In some ways, this is accurate: despite a workforce of some half a million Americans, the first use of the atomic bomb was largely kept secret and achieved the shocking effect that was intended. In some ways, this is inaccurate: by 1950, it had become clear that the project had been penetrated by multiple Soviet spies. In this talk, the Manhattan Project’s security regime will be deconstructed and analyzed as to its multiple goals (which included far more than simply keeping information about the project from the Germans, Japanese, or Soviet Union), and why it was “successful” at achieving some of these goals, and why it utterly failed at others. Ultimately this approach realigns our understanding of what secrecy regimes are, how they work (and why they sometimes don’t), and the key differences between the secrecy of World War II and the Cold War that followed.

Event Speaker: 

Alex Wellerstein an Assistant Professor of Science and Technology Studies in the College of Arts and Letters at the Stevens Institute of Technology. His general research interests are in the history of nuclear technology, government secrecy, and Cold War science. 

Event Information: 

This event is free and open to the public.

This event is part of the New York History of Science Lecture Series.

Sponsoring Organizations:

  • The University Seminars at Columbia University
  • Columbia University in the City of New York
  • NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study
  • The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • The New York Academy of Medicine
  • The New York Academy of Sciences