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Iowa History Daily: October 12 - Atomic Iowa

Iowa History Daily: On October 12, 1945, General Leslie R. Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, arrived at Iowa State to award the “E” Award for Excellence in Production to the Ames Project. Part of the larger Manhattan Project to create the first atomic bomb, the Ames Project found a method for preparing pure uranium metal vital to atomic bombs and nuclear reactors.

Founded by physical chemist at Iowa State Frank Spedding and guided by chemist Harley Wilhelm, the World War II era project took place at the extreme southeastern edge of the Iowa State Campus. Workers on the project dubbed the site “Little Ankeny” as a nod to a large munitions plant operating to the south in Ankeny during the war.

Starting work early in the war in conjunction with other scientists around the country under the Manhattan Project, in early August 1942 the collected chemists in Ames first utilized their new process for purifying uranium. The thermite-based purification developed over the late-1800s patent by German chemist Hans Goldschmidt.

After the close of World War II, in October 1945, Groves arrived to award the ‘E’ Award to the Ames Project at Iowa State. The first non-commercial industrial recipient of the award, the government cited 2.5 years of excellence in production of metallic uranium as a vital war material. Iowa State stands unique as a non-industrial recipient of the award. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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