who would patent the atomic bomb?!?!

March 28, 2008 at 8:29 am | | news, science and the public, science community, stupid technology

The US Government would. Alex Wellerstein at Harvard has compiled some of the 2,100 patents that came out of the Manhattan Project … secret patents. Here’s a great one:


Ah, the METHOD FOR PRODUCING, SEPARATING, AND PURIFYING PLUTONIUM. Better patent that one so no one else does it in their basement and sells plutonium on their own. Right.

I hear an interesting piece on NPR about this story. My favorite part was the realization that spies could have taken advantage of these patents, even though they were secret, by submitting their own patents: the Patent Office would then basically reveal they already have a similar patent. Ha! Good luck for the US that no one was smart enough to try that!

I’m sure there’s a smart reason to patent the frikkin’ atomic bomb while you’re making it, but I still don’t know that reason.


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  1. I heard the story as well, basically they wanted scientists to sign away their rights so they could not have control over how these devices were used in the future, or take their inventions and market them for industrial production after the war.

    Comment by sarah — March 28, 2008 #

  2. Anyone know if NPR discussed that this was possibly done as a mis-information campaign? ie withholding certain key steps in the patent and/or patenting technologies far more advanced than what they could actually do?

    Comment by ilya — March 29, 2008 #

  3. hey ilya! they didn’t suggest that. but that’s an interesting idea.

    Comment by sam — March 30, 2008 #

  4. Niche article.

    Comment by Law News — August 14, 2008 #

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