Portions of the development and history of the hydrogen bomb remain classified. But it is public knowledge that its chief architect was Dr. Edward Teller. The first H bomb (or thermonuclear bomb / fusion bomb) detonated was on November 1 1952 in Enewetak in the Marshall Islands.
The Teller Ulam Design
The hydrogen bomb is also called the Teller-Ulam design, after Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam who helped in the project too. Unlike other scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, Teller continued his work on producing nuclear weapons.
The idea for the hydrogen bomb was broached to Teller by his colleague Enrico Fermi in 1941. Teller was assigned to the Manhattan Project. But his preoccupation with the hydrogen bomb led to a falling out of sorts with Dr. Oppenheimer who was working on the atomic bomb.
Hydrogen Bomb Tests
The history of the hydrogen bomb shows Teller continued the work with Ulam after the Manhattan Project. After some initial difficulties, a small test was conducted in 1951. It was a success and another one was scheduled in 1952. The precise location was the Enewetak Atoll.
The blast produced an explosion equivalent to 10 megatons. It was almost 500 times more powerful than the bomb dropped in Nagasaki. The bomb was nicknamed Sausage and weighed over 80 tons. In 1954 another hydrogen bomb (code named Shrimp) was detonated. It released a force of 15 megatons. It was the biggest one the US had ever detonated.
The succeeding stages in the history of the hydrogen bomb in the US were centered on reducing its size. The goal was to fit it in missiles that could be carried by submarines. By the 1960s, megaton warheads were only a few hundred pounds and could be fitted in vehicles and ICBMs.
Facts about the Hydrogen Bomb
The atomic bomb was a fission bomb while the hydrogen bomb works by fusion. The fission bomb separates plutonium or uranium to release its power. The hydrogen bomb works by combining the atoms. The hydrogen bomb actually uses an atomic bomb to set off its explosion.
This does not mean the atom bomb and H bomb are the same. The hydrogen bomb is more powerful owing to its structure and setup. In the history of the hydrogen bomb, the most powerful tested was the Tsar bomb. It exploded with a force of 50 megatons in 1960.
Russia designed its first H bomb in 1949, code named Sloika. It was not patterned after the Teller Ulam design and had to rely on inner explosives to set off the major explosion. It was tested in 1953 and had a force equal to 400 kilotons.
In 1954, the Soviets created a new one similar to the Teller Ulam design. It had a force of 1.5 megatons. The 50 megaton Tsar bomb, while powerful, was so huge it was impractical as a weapon.
Much of the history of the hydrogen bomb is still classified. It is entirely possible that larger and more powerful bombs have been, or being developed.