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threat of a second one if surrender did not come within
forty-eight hours, newspapers carried such headlines as: 'Most
terrifying weapon in history: Churchill's warning', and 'Blind
girl 'saw' the first flash' (120 miles away). They reported
how the project had spent five billion pounds 'on the greatest
scientific gamble in history', and proudly claimed that 'British
and American scientists have won the race to harness the basic
power of the universe in a war weapon with a force which will
turn the course of history'. Little did Marie Curie know when
she started her investigation of Becquerel's mysterious 'uranium
rays' just what it would eventually lead to. But during the Second
World War many world-famous scientists and Nobel Laureates
were amongst the hundred and twenty-five thousand people
who worked on the Manhattan Project. Amongst these were
Harrison Brown and his future research student, Claire
Patterson, who were both then based at the University of
Brown had very wide ranging interests, having been exposed
to the challenging environment created by those he worked
alongside on the Manhattan Project, but perhaps his greatest
talent lay in his flair for extracting the best from others, and
teaching them how 'to seek the hidden splendours of science,
damning the risks'. After the war Brown stayed on at Chicago
and initiated a number of new projects in fields such as nuclear
chemistry, chemical oceanography and astrophysics. In addition
to all this, and following his involvement with radioactive decay
systems on the Manhattan Project, Brown collaborated with
American geologists who, following Holmes' work, were
dreaming the dream of finding an accurate method of dating
common igneous rocks by analysing the impossibly small
amounts of lead they contained.
Enthused by their ideas, and recognising Patterson as a
skilled mass spectrometrist (and with equipment and levels of
funding never available to Holmes) Brown set Patterson to work
on determining techniques for the measurement of the tiny
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