From Hiroshima To The H-Bomb, 10 Earth-Shaking Moments In Atomic Science

Sixty years ago today, the U.S. detonated the first hydrogen bomb. Here's how we got there. Plus, the atomic spaceship we're still waiting for.

Today marks 60 years since U.S. scientists detonated the world's first thermonuclear weapon on the Enewetak Atoll in the Pacific. The hydrogen bomb, powered by nuclear fusion rather than fission, was hundreds of times more potent than the atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima in 1945.

In August 1955, Popular Science published 10 photographs that together tell the dramatic story of "10 years of progress in harnessing the mighty atom," from the uranium rush to the first atomic hospitals. We also carefully illustrated and annotated our vision of an atomic spaceship (one day!) Check out the gallery for some of the biggest moments in atomic history.

1946: Radioisotopes

"Radioisotopes... inaugurate wide use of these artificial radioactive substances, scarce and costly before, to cure disease and serve as tracers in research." Read the full story in our August 1955 issue.PopSci archives

1947: Fast Reactor

"Fast reactor completed at Los Alamos, first of kind, foreshadows future designs for atomic power. Small compared to bulky uranium-and-graphite predecessors, it burns plutonium, and is cooled by liquid metal instead of by water or air." Read the full story in our August 1955 issue.PopSci archives

1948: Uranium Rush

"Uranium rush begins in U.S., with announcement of Government program to spur the hunt for the newly strategic metal, including generous payment for ore and a fat bonus for extra-rich finds." Read the full story in our August 1955 issue.PopSci archives

1949: Making A-Bombs

"Making A-bombs is revolutionized by U.S.-developed method of mass production. New technique, and news that Russia has A-bomb, speed stockpiling." Read the full story in our August 1955 issue.PopSci archives

1950: Atomic Hospitals

"Atomic hospitals, the first exclusively for atomic medicine, open at Oak Ridge and Brookhaven reactor sites. Posed photo demonstrates how Geiger counter checks effect on patient of 'atomic cocktail' from Brookhaven reactor." Read the full story in our August 1955 issue.PopSci archives

1951: First Electric Power

"First electric power from atom lights building, and bulbs in photo. Token amount exceeding 100 kw is generated by Experimental Breeder Reactor at Arco, Idaho. Later, same reactor proves 'breeding' can vastly augment atomic-fuel supply." Read the full story in our August 1955 issue.PopSci archives

1952: Atomic Cannon

"Atomic cannon unveiled by U.S. demonstrates not only a new A-weapon--but also the wide variety of atomic ammunition now available, ranging down to size that fits gun's bore. The following year, the cannon fires the first nuclear shell." Read the full story in our August 1955 issue.PopSci archives

1953: Atom Power Station

"Full-scale atom power station takes shape as construction begins of first in history, to generate between 50,000 and 100,000 kw at Calder Hall, England." Read the full story in our August 1955 issue.PopSci archives

1954: H-Bomb

"H-bomb facts burst upon world as U.S. explodes biggest hydrogen bomb, and bares its awesome power. U.S. had set off its first in November, 1952; Russia in August, 1953. But even existence of H-bombs was secret till end of 1953." Read the full story in our August 1955 issue.PopSci archives

1955: Atomic Sub

" 'Under Way On Atomic Power' is historic message flashed by U.S. submarine Nautilus, world's first atom-propelled craft--and forerunner of others that may ply the sea and air, on peaceful as well as military missions, in the years ahead." Read the full story in our August 1955 issue.PopSci archives

The Future! Atomic Spaceship

"An atomic spaceship, General Electric engineers say, awaits more novel and distant developments: a reactor yielding electricity directly, and an engine shooting a jet of electrified particles rearward for propulsion." Read the full story in our August 1955 issue.PopSci archives