© Science Museum/Science and Society Picture Library
The first atomic bomb was exploded at a desert site near Alamogordo, New Mexico, in a test called Trinity. The ferocious heat generated by the blast fused the desert surface into a greenish glassy substance and melted the 30-metre steel tower on which the bomb had been placed. Even the scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project (the programme to develop the bomb) were stunned by the power of the test. When 'the sinister and gigantic cloud' rose over the desert, their leader, Robert Oppenheimer, recalled a line from the sacred Hindu text, the Bhagavad-Gita:
'I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds'.