The first and only nuclear bomb to have been used in warfare was the atomic bomb, which was developed in the Manhattan Project, and exploded over Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945 respectively. It worked through fission of highly enriched uranium, though since then plutonium has also been used. It was the first weapon of mass destruction. Through their explosive power and heat they killed 150,000 people, while even more suffered from radiation subsequently. Immediately, the atomic bomb became a symbol, if not a fact, of superpower status, as the Soviet Union developed its bomb by 1949, the UK by 1952, France by 1960, and China by 1962. Since then, India and Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea have also achieved nuclear capability.
An even more powerful nuclear weapon was developed in the hydrogen bomb, based on destruction through nuclear fusion. It was acquired by the USA in 1952, the USSR in 1953, the UK (1957), China (1967), and France (1968). Finally, an even more potent weapon was created in the enhanced hydrogen bomb, developed by the USA in 1977, which used a beryl coating to vastly expand its radioactive power.
The nuclear bomb in its various forms shaped politics throughout the Cold War era (1948–91). As the USA and USSR especially developed the ability to destroy the earth several times over, an all‐out war became too costly to contemplate. Both countries came close to a nuclear war in the Cuban missile crisis, but thereafter promoted nuclear disarmament. The nuclear bomb shaped the political and social culture of postwar generations, articulated by organizations like CND and Pugwash, as well as individuals like Einstein and Russell, as nuclear weapons became the epitome of the dangers of scientific research in particular, and ‘modernity’ in general.
Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Science and Mathematics.