"I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." 

- J. Robert Oppenheimer, Trinity 1945



Image: Hibakusha Portraits (Survivors of the Atomic Bomb, Hiroshima). Wikiwand. [online]. 

Dr. Julius Robert Oppenheimer was amongst the leading developers of the first nuclear weapons (source: YouTube).


The Hibakusha Portraits, Carl Randall, 2006

Materials: Pencil and Ink on Paper

Dimensions: 35 x 45cm

Location: University College London (Art Museum collection)

Condition: Excellently preserved, no visible deterioration

About the Drawings

Immediately after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the American journalist John Hersey interviewed six survivors. Hersey incorporated these interviews into his documentary book Hiroshima. Six decades later, the British figurative painter Carl Randall took inspiration from Hersey’s book and found another six Hiroshima survivors to portray. The series of six portraits are intended to be a visual equivalent of Hersey’s documentary account and are known as Hibakusha Portraits. All six drawings were created in 2006 and show people who went through the horrors of the war as kids or young adults, lost what are some of their closest relatives and friends, and started their lives over in the post-war years.

The Manhattan Project

In the summer of 1939, Einstein wrote to the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt revealing the attempts of a few scientists in Nazi Germany to purify (split) the uranium atom (U-235). If successful, such a chemical reaction would generate enough energy to power a bomb. This is how Einstein helped the U.S. Government initiate the Manhattan Project whose main goal was the production of a viable atomic bomb. Hundreds of scientists were part of this project that costed the U.S. nation over $2 billion. However, Einstein never worked directly on the development of the atomic bomb. 

The scientist who is often referred to as the "father" of the atomic bomb is J. Robert Oppenheimer. He was a vital part of the Manhattan Project from its conception to its completion and was a director of the Los Alamos laboratories where prominent physicians and chemists worked on the creation of the first nuclear weapons. 

World War II: Innovation Led to Death

World War II (1939-1945) is a time of bloodshed related to one of the most pivotal moments in the modern history - the use of nuclear weapons as a result of the successful completion of the Manhattan Project. On August 6, 1945 the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima. The bomb was known as “Little Boy” - uranium gun-type bomb carried by a B-29 plane called Enola Gay (after pilot Paul Tibbets' mother). This was the first time a nuclear weapon was used for destructive purposes outside the science laboratory and any test area. Recent statistics show that the city of Hiroshima has estimated that 237,000 people were killed directly or indirectly by the bomb's effects (including burns, radiation sickness, and cancer). 

The use of atomic bombs during World War II caused the death of thousands of people, but it also changed international relations in such a way that the world nowadays is safer. Because of the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD) countries with nuclear capacities do not engage in direct conflict with each other any more.

Injury Phases Caused by Nuclear Fallout

1st two weeks after the explosion: People who were not killed by the explosion had serious burns whose severity depended on the clothes the injured were wearing at the time of the bombing. White clothes reflected some of the radiation, while darker clothes absorbed it to a greater extent. 

3rd-8th week after the explosion: Symptoms of radiation damages appeared, e.g. loss of hair, loss of white cells, bleeding, anemia (around 10% of the cases in this group were lethal).

3-4 months later: So called "secondary injuries" prevailed, e.g. severe scar formations (keloids), blood abnormalities, sterility, psychosomatic disorders. 

Nowadays, many post-effects related to people's health condition have remained as a result from the bombing. Amongst these are leukemia, A-bomb cataracts, cancers, mental illnesses.

Who is behind the Manhattan Project?


  1. Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - 1945. [online]. Atomic Heritage Foundation. Available from: http://www.atomicheritage.org/history/bombings-hiroshima-and-nagasaki-1945 
  2. Counting the Dead. [online]. Atomic Bomb Museum. Available from: http://atomicbombmuseum.org/3_health.shtml 
  3. Gaddis, J. 1982. A critical Appraisal of Post-War American National Security. Oxford University Press.
  4. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2015. Manhattan Project. United States History. Available from: https://www.britannica.com/event/Manhattan-Project
  5. The Manhattan Project. [online]. American Museum of Natural History. Available from: http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/einstein/peace-and-war/the-manhattan-project/ 
  6. UCL Art Museum Acquisitions Recommendation for CAG (5 December 2013): Carl Randall - Drawings - Portraits of Elderly People. University College London: UCL Art Museum. 
  7. 2014. Carl Randall's 'Hibakusha Portraits' on display at UCL Museum. [online]. Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation. Available from: http://www.dajf.org.uk/news/carl-randalls-hibakusha-portraits   

Further Reading

Beyer, R. Sayles, E. 2015. The Ghost Army of World War II. 1st ed. Princeton Architectural Press.

Gosling, F. G. 1999. The Manhattan Project: Making the Atomic Bomb. 1st ed. Washington: History Division, Department of Energy. 

Hersey, J. 1946. Hiroshima. 1st ed. New York: A. A. Knopf, Inc. 

Kelly, C. 2009. The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic Bomb in the Words of Its Creators, Eyewitnesses, and Historians. 1st ed. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.