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Q: Did Einstein’s E = mc² Equation Really Make the Atomic Bomb Possible?

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A: It’s probably the most famous equation of all time. And we all know the much-adored genius Albert Einstein was the one who whipped it up. Yet, in the popular mind, despite the fact that many of his brilliant discoveries and positions have bettered humanity, Einstein isn’t always thought of in the most positive light. In fact, a great many naysayers are of the belief that it was Einstein’s discovery of E = mc² which made the atomic bomb possible — quite an ignoble claim to fame, if it were true.

Fortunately for us Einstein fanatics, it’s not true. Before his prized equation was even formulated, the discovery of radioactivity had already shown there was a million times more energy available than in ordinary chemical reactions. Further, the discovery of the chain reaction had already made fission power practicable. In reality, Einstein’s equation just explained where the energy came from; it played no role in the development of atomic bombs or nuclear reactors.

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