Los Alamos, New Mexico

Encyclopedia Article


Los Alamos is a town in New Mexico made up of the townsite of Los Alamos proper and the smaller community of White Rock. The town is built atop four mesas and White Rock Canyon in a scenic, mountainous area. The town features recreational activities for tourists and visitors including skiing, hiking, and biking trails. Bandelier National monument is accessible from Los Alamos. The town was home to the Los Alamos Ranch School for Boys, which ran from 1918-1943.

Los Alamos is home to one of the two national laboratories in the United States where top secret work on nuclear weapons takes place. The laboratory also conducts research on solar and nuclear energy. In 1943, the laboratory was built as part of the Manhattan Project for the specific purpose of designing a functioning atomic bomb. In 1945, the bomb was successfully tested in southern New Mexico at the Trinity Site. In 1945, the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan killing approximately 129,000 people. The laboratory was also the first to develop a hydrogen bomb. Los Alamos has one of the highest per capita rates of PhDs, and highest median incomes, of any county in the U.S. This laboratory, and New Mexico more generally, have a reputation for nuclear and uranium testing, which has been controversial across the United States. Much of the radioactive testing and building happens on or near reservation land, and what many tribes of Native Americans consider to be sacred land.

Photo Credit: 

"Aerial view of Los Alamos, New Mexico looking east along Sandia Drive, 1950" photograph, (055375). Palace of the Governors Photo Archive, New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe. Use with permission only.

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