Los Alamos National LaboratoryBradbury Science Museum
Your Window into Los Alamos National Laboratory
Bradbury Science Museum


From high desert mesas to national laboratory

December 12, 2018
Main gate of Manhattan Project

Historical photo from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). On April 20, 1943, the University of California signed a contract with the United States Army Corps of Engineers to operate a secret laboratory in the mountains of northern New Mexico. The university accepted the task of managing Los Alamos as a service to the nation. The Los Alamos Laboratory sprang up overnight.

The beginning of the atomic bomb

Los Alamos’ history goes back well before 1943, but World War II and the arrival of the Manhattan Project in the spring of that year turned what had been a calm and quiet collection of mesas and canyons into an industrial scale laboratory bent on the creation of the first atomic bombs. Los Alamos would go on to become the world leading laboratory in many fields of science that it is today.

History questions to ponder

Why is our museum named for Bradbury, and not for Oppenheimer?

Shortly after the end of WWII, Robert Oppenheimer left Los Alamos to return to academia. Dr. Norris Bradbury agreed to take on the reins at Los Alamos for six months, and he stayed as Director for 25 years.

Learn more about how Bradbury Museum got its name (pdf).

How many babies were born in Post Office Box 1663?

Just in the first nine months the count was around 80. Then Project Y families got down to serious creative work.

Learn more about Project Y babies (pdf).

Why was it called the Manhattan Project?

The Manhattan Project’s first dedicated office was on the 18th floor of a tower at the corner of Broadway and Chambers Street in Manhattan, New York. Army Corps of Engineers practice at the time was to use locations for naming protocols.

Learn more about naming the Manhattan Project (pdf).

Cool history links