From the 18th through the late 20th century, the history of science, especially of the physical and biological sciences, was often presented as a progressive accumulation of knowledge, in which true theories replaced false beliefs. More recent historical interpretations, such as those of Thomas Kuhn, tend to portray the history of science in terms of competing paradigms or conceptual systems within a wider matrix of intellectual, cultural, economic and political trends. These interpretations, however, have met with opposition for they also portray the history of science as an incoherent system of incommensurable paradigms, not leading to any actual scientific progress but only to the illusion that it has occurred.
The nuclear research effort most widely discussed was that of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute team led by the physicist Werner Heisenberg. The second was a military team under the scientific leadership of Prof. Kurt Diebner. This military team was also associated with Dr. Paul Harteck, who helped to develop the gaseous uranium centrifuge invented by Dr. Erich Bagge in 1942. Their team was part of the German Army (Heereswaffenamt Forschungsstelle E), the Kriegsmarine (navy) had a subsidiary team looking at nuclear propulsion for U-boats under Dr. Otto Haxel. Konteradmiral Karl Witzell and Konteradmiral Wilhelm Rein were military leaders of the naval nuclear project.
The intentions of Heisenberg's team are a matter of historical controversy, centering on whether or not the scientists involved were genuinely attempting to build an atomic bomb for Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. The project was not a military success by any measure.