While in college, Ray Palmer saw a white dwarf star fragment crash land to Earth, and upon graduation, began to experiment with the fragment. In his experiments, he discovered that the fragment, when combined with ultaviolet light, could shrink inanimate objects, but upon returning to normal size, they would explode from instability. While on a speluniking expidetion with a group of kids and his girlfriend Jean Loring, Ray got his chance to experiment on a living being when they were trapped in a cave in...the object being himself. Using the white dwarf star fragment, which he made into an engagement ring for Jean, a special lens he used in his experiments, a small ray of sunlight, and some cave water, Ray shrunk to height of six inches , and, unbeknownst to the group, managed to free them from the cave in. Deciding to use the white dwarf fragment to help Jean establish herself as a lawyer (and speed up her decision to marry him), Ray, put together a sky blue and bright red uniform made from the fragment, which increased his strength thanks to its natural density, and shrinking controls that could make him shrink to six inches and smaller, and became the second Atom, protecting his home of Ivy Town from evil, proving that you should underestimate the little guy.
Ray can shrink down to six inches and smaller, becoming so small, that he can ride the electronic impulses of a telephone signal, or enter a subatomic universe. His costume grants him super strength, and he can fly by gliding on air currents.