"Atomic" John Coster-Mullen

If you are interested in the development of the atomic bombs you might find this interesting. John Coster-Mullen is a photographer turned truck driver that has painstakingly researched the inner workings of the Little Boy atomic bomb down to the smallest detail, surprising even the experts that built the bombs. He seems to have the makings of a cartridge collector. I suspect this may also be the first (and probably last) time The New Yorker magazine would publish an article relevant to the IAA.

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Wow, a super neat & interesting srtory Larry, thanks for finding it.

I should also say that I too am a fan of W. Eugene Smith, & think he was probably the best photojournalist ever. I was fortunate to acquire one of his signed photos from his Spanish Village series. Also met him when I lived in Seattle WA & got his autograph then. BIG fan of his truely amazing body of work.

Pete, one thing I found very interesting about this is his approach to research using photographs. I think many of us might use similar methods with cartridges when all we have is a photo, but I learned a few things about using background objects to determine the size and account for distortion. I’ve done this before, but not to the level he has taken it. I like his story about tracking down a 1942 Plymouth just so he could measure the height of the door.

I wasn’t familiar with W. Eugene Smith until looking him up, though I think a few of the Life cover photos looked familiar. He sure had a way of finding striking scenes to photograph. Amazing stuff.

"Richard Rhodes, who won a Pulitzer Prize, in 1988, for his dazzling and meticulous book “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.” ’

I can highly recommend that book. It provides a basic education into the history of nuclear physics in addition to explaining every aspect as to how the fissionable materials and bombs were developed and built. Plan on at least a few days to read it.

Regarding the “Gun Bomb” (Little Boy), it was not test-fired before it was dropped on Hiroshima, as the makers were about 99.99% sure that it would perform exactly as intended - and it did. The first nuclear test explosion was made in New Mexico using the implosion (Plutonium) bomb (Fat Man), as the certainty of its proper functioning was not nearly as great, and it was considered beyond unacceptable to drop a dud bomb on Japan. So even after Fat Man was tested and found operational, they dropped the untested Little Boy bomb first.

Dennis, I agree with your recommendation for “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.” It is an excellent book. Just keep in mind that it does have some minor technical errors that were discovered later by John Coster-Mullen in his research. I’m not sure if Richard Rhodes has published a revised edition, but still a very good read either way. I’ve not read John Coster-Mullen’s book, just the article in the New Yorker linked above.

Of the two bombs, I think the workings of the implosion bomb are much more interesting. Development of the explosive lenses was probably the most fascinating part of Richard Rhoades’ book for me.