The City of Chicago's Official Site



Site of the First Self-Sustaining Controlled Nuclear Chain Reaction

    Address: 5600-block of South Ellis Ave.
Year Built: Event took place on December 2, 1942; Sculpture erected 1967
Architect: Henry Moore
Date Designated a Chicago Landmark: October 27, 1971

Stagg Field, circa 1950 After years of experiments, physicist Enrico Fermi and a team of scientists working at the University of Chicago became convinced that if a sufficient quantity of uranium could be brought together under proper conditions, a self-sustaining reaction would occur. At 3:25 p.m. on December 2, 1942, in makeshift laboratories constructed in an abandoned handball court under the grandstands of the university's Stagg Field Stadium, the final experiment was initiated. A 28-minute nuclear chain reaction was started, controlled, and stopped. The atomic age had begun. Stagg Field was demolished in the late 1960s and, on the 25th anniversary of the nuclear reaction, a 12-foot bronze sculpture, entitled "Nuclear Energy," was dedicated on the site.