Physics in Perspective

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 338–349 | Cite as

The Bonebrake Theological Seminary: Top-Secret Manhattan Project Site

  • Katherine R. Sopka
  • Elisabeth M. SopkaEmail author


We discuss the top-secret Manhattan Project site established at the Bonebrake Theological Seminary in 1943 in Dayton, Ohio, where research on polonium and its production was carried out. The polonium produced there was then transported to Los Alamos to be used in a polonium–beryllium neutron source whose purpose was to ignite the plutonium implosion bomb that would be dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945. Our account is based primarily on the recollections of John J. Sopka, research physicist at the Bonebrake laboratory.


Edwin C. Kemble John J. Sopka Luther P. Eisenhart Charles Allen Thomas James H. Lum W. Conrad Fernelius Mary Lou Curtis Harvard University Columbia University Massachusetts Institute of Technology Princeton University Manhattan Project Metallurgical Laboratory Bonebrake Theological Seminary Monsanto Chemical Company polonium polonium–beryllium neutron source alpha-particle detectors laboratory safety plutonium implosion bomb 



We most especially thank Roger H. Stuewer for his support, extraordinary patience, and kindnesses, as well as for his technical assistance in the final stages of our paper. Without his help our paper never would have been completed.


  1. 1.
  2. 2.
    Katherine R. Sopka and Elisabeth M. Sopka, “Bonebrake Theological Seminary—Most Secret A-Bomb Project Site,” Bulletin of the American Physical Society, Section S14.002, website [Abstract].
  3. 3.
    See, for example, Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), p. 579.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser / Springer Basel AG 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BostonUSA

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