Manhattan Project Nov. 17 Features Alex Wellerstein’s Lecture ‘The Best-Kept Secret Of The War’

Nuclear weapons historian Alex Wellerstein’s lecture ‘The Best-Kept Secret of the War? The Successes and Failures of Manhattan Project Secrecy’ will be presented virtually Nov. 17. Photo Courtesy Los Alamos Historical Society


Join the Los Alamos Historical Society online at 6 p.m. Nov. 17 for Alex Wellerstein’s lecture “The ‘Best-Kept Secret of the War’? The Successes and Failures of Manhattan Project Secrecy.” How successful was the Manhattan Project at keeping the atomic bomb a secret—and what were the Project’s goals for secrecy in the first place?

Historical Society lectures are free, but registration is required to provide you with the Zoom link. Lectures are limited to 100 participants, so sign up early to reserve your spot. To register, visit and follow the links to our EventBrite page.

In the wake of the bombing of Hiroshima, the Manhattan Project was lauded by the press as the “best-kept secret of the war.” In some ways, this is accurate: despite a workforce of some half a million Americans, the first use of the atomic bomb was largely kept secret and achieved the shocking effect that was intended. In some ways, this is inaccurate: by 1950, it had become clear that the project had been penetrated by multiple Soviet spies. In this talk, the Manhattan Project’s security regime will be deconstructed and analyzed as to its multiple goals (which included far more than simply keeping information about the project from the Germans, Japanese, or Soviet Union), and why it was “successful” at achieving some of these goals but utterly failed at others. Ultimately this approach realigns our understanding of what secrecy regimes are, how they work (and why they sometimes don’t), and the key differences between the secrecy of World War II and the Cold War that followed.

Alex Wellerstein is a historian of nuclear weapons, and his first book, Restricted Data: The History of Nuclear Secrecy in the United States is being published by the University of Chicago Press in early 2021. He is an assistant professor and the Director of Science and Technology Studies at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. He received his PhD in History of Science from Harvard University in 2010.

The Los Alamos Historical Society lecture series is made possible by the generous sponsorship of Enterprise Bank & Trust, Member FDIC; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the New Mexico Humanities Council; and Robin and Richard McLean.

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