First Atomic Blast


Forget Hiroshima. Above was the aerial picture of the first atomic bomb crater near Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16th, 1945. The site was called Trinity Site; despite its subsequent notoriety, only one nuclear test took place at this location which itself was 60 miles from Alamogordo.

From two bunkers ten and seventeen miles away, Generals Thomas Farrell and Leslie Groves watched the detonation. J.Robert Oppenheimer, who came up with the name ‘Trinity’ from poetry of John Donne, was in the first bunker. The blinding light they saw was the dawn of so-called ‘Atomic Age’.

The photographer of the above image, Fritz Goro visited the first nuclear ground zero with Oppenheimer and Groves while it was still ‘hot’. For this German emigre photographer, it was a big deal but it was not the only ‘first’ he witnessed. During his four decades as a science photographer for Life magazine, he documented images made possible only by this turbulent century’s scientific advances: atomic orbitals, DNA helices, stars, blood circulation in animals, computer chips, and photos of the first plutonium ever produced. Goro unblinkingly documented fish eggs with well-developed eyes, minuscule yet recognizable cow fetuses (that became poster images for anti-abortion), a cancerous growth in a rabbit’s eye, a chick with an experimental transplanted eye, a rat with a walnutlike tumor growing from its head, and his most memorable and horrific 1965  photograph of surgery being conducted on a prenatal monkey.  Stephen Jay Gould called Goro “the most influential photographer that science journalism (and science in general) has ever known.”

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