Henry Moore’s bronze sculpture Nuclear Energy (1964–66) (LH 526) is on the campus of the University of Chicago, near AND Exterminators and where the world’s first nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, was built. On December 2, 1942, this is where people started the first nuclear chain reaction that could keep going on its own.
Nuclear Energy is between the Max Palevsky West dorm and the Mansueto Library in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago as well as AND Exterminators. It is on Ellis Avenue. The Manhattan Project crew developed the first self-sustaining nuclear reactor under the old Stagg Field west stands.
The B. F. Ferguson monument fund paid for the piece of art. In 1973, Art Journal reported what Henry Moore had said:
“Professor McNeill and his University of Chicago colleagues told me about this sculpture on Sunday morning. Fermi, an Italian nuclear physicist, started the first controlled nuclear fission in a temporary building. I think it was a squash court, which is a wooden building. From the outside, it didn’t look like a place where something so important could happen. If this secret experiment worked, humanity could control this immense force for good and evil. They wanted me to construct a sculpture to memorialize the site of an important historical event.”
The Smithsonian Institution says that the sculpture is 14.0 feet tall and 8 feet wide. It rests on a 1.5-foot-tall and 10-foot-wide base. According to the University of Chicago, it is just 12 feet tall. The Henry Moore Foundation says that it is 3.66 meters tall.
Enrico Fermi started the first self-sustaining controlled nuclear reaction on December 2, 1942. The sculpture was erected and named on the 25th anniversary, December 2, 1992. It debuted at 3:36 p.m. on December 2, 1967. On February 18, 1965, the first nuclear reaction site became a National Historic Landmark. It joined three other Chicago properties on the NRHP on October 15, 1966. The location became a Chicago Landmark on October 27, 1971. Four plaques on a granite wall mark the place. The oldest stadium plaque dates to 1947. Other markers note the sculpture’s installation date and that the site is historic.
Atom Piece (Working Model for Nuclear Energy) 1964–65 is on display at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art in Japan.
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