Article ID: CBB340773011

Walther Bothe's Graphite: Physics, Impurities, and Blame in the German Nuclear Program (2020)


The physics, experimental setup, and analysis of results involved in Walther Bothe and Peter Jensen's mistaken 1941 measurement of the capture cross section for thermal neutrons by carbon are examined. Their experiment, while well-conceived and executed, was corrupted by the presence of unappreciated impurities. This erroneous measurement was crucial as it prompted a decision by German military administrators to abandon graphite as a possible moderator for a nuclear pile in favor of heavy water, a decision which set their program back irreparably.

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Authors & Contributors
Cioci, Vincenzo
Santos, Gildo Magalhães
Yruma, Jeris Stueland
Walker, Mark
Turchetti, Simone
Trömel, Martin
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Physics in Perspective
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
European Physical Journal H
Chemical Heritage
Luigi Pellegrini Editore
Pavia University Press
University of Nevada Press
University of Chicago Press
Nuclear fission
Nuclear weapons; atomic weapons
Science and war; science and the military
Science and culture
Science and society
Fermi, Enrico
Heisenberg, Werner
Hahn, Otto
Meitner, Lise
Noddack, Walter Karl Friedrich
Noddack, Ida
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, early
20th century, late
21st century
United States
Hiroshima-shi (Japan)
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Physik, Berlin
United States War Department
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Chemie

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