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Churchill's Bomb: How the United States Overtook Britain in the First Nuclear Arms Raceby Graham Farmelo
Synopses & Reviews
Perhaps no scientific development has shaped the course of modern history as much as the harnessing of nuclear energy. Yet the twentieth century might have turned out differently had greater influence over this technology been exercised by Great Britain, whose scientists were at the forefront of research into nuclear weapons at the beginning of World War II.
As award-winning biographer and science writer Graham Farmelo describes in Churchilland#8217;s Bomb, the British set out to investigate the possibility of building nuclear weapons before their American colleagues. But when scientists in Britain first discovered a way to build an atomic bomb, Prime Minister Winston Churchill did not make the most of his countryand#8217;s lead and was slow to realize the Bomband#8217;s strategic implications. This was oddand#151;he prided himself on recognizing the military potential of new science and, in the 1920s and 1930s, had repeatedly pointed out that nuclear weapons would likely be developed soon. In developing the Bomb, however, he marginalized some of his countryand#8217;s most brilliant scientists, choosing to rely mainly on the counsel of his friend Frederick Lindemann, an Oxford physicist with often wayward judgment. Churchill also failed to capitalize on Franklin Rooseveltand#8217;s generous offer to work jointly on the Bomb, and ultimately ceded Britainand#8217;s initiative to the Americans, whose successful development and deployment of the Bomb placed the United States in a position of supreme power at the dawn of the nuclear age. After the war, President Truman and his administration refused to acknowledge a secret cooperation agreement forged by Churchill and Roosevelt and froze Britain out of nuclear development, leaving Britain to make its own way. Dismayed, Churchill worked to restore the relationship. Churchill came to be terrified by the possibility of thermonuclear war, and emerged as a pioneer of dand#233;tente in the early stages of the Cold War.
Contrasting Churchilland#8217;s often inattentive leadership with Franklin Rooseveltand#8217;s decisiveness, Churchilland#8217;s Bomb reveals the secret history of the weapon that transformed modern geopolitics.
"Science historian Farmelo (The Strangest Man) ends each chapter with a cliffhanger that will keep readers paging through this thoroughly researched, detailed history of Britain's involvement with nuclear energy in the WWII era and beyond. Farmelo presents the key personalities — Churchill, 'at heart a politician and a man of letters, not an academic and certainly not a scientist;' Lindemann, an admired experimentalist and theoretician who was Churchill's science adviser for decades; an array of scientists, from Bohr to Oppenheimer; and several U.S. presidents — F.D.R., Truman, and Eisenhower — and follows them from pre-war developments through the war to the Manhattan Project and to the Cold War. Readers will gain a new perspective on nuclear weapons and energy in which the usual players — Einstein, Szilard, and the other scientists — are secondary to the British prime minister, his advisor, and scientists who took refuge in England during the war. Farmelo's prose moves quickly with much action; he evokes a sense of place and time with details of daily life, such as Lindemann's truffled egg whites and F.D.R.'s daily routine. Highly recommended for those with an interest in weaponry, the WWII era, and British history. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
After World War II, most scientists in Germany maintained that they had been apolitical or actively resisted the Nazi regime, but the true story is much more complicated. In Serving the Reich, Philip Ball takes a fresh look at that controversial history, contrasting the career of Peter Debye, director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin, with those of two other leading physicists in Germany during the Third Reich: Max Planck, the elder statesman of physics after whom Germanyand#8217;s premier scientific society is now named, and Werner Heisenberg, who succeeded Debye as director of the institute when it became focused on the development of nuclear power and weapons. and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;and#160;
Mixing history, science, and biography, Balland#8217;s gripping exploration of the lives of scientists under Nazism offers a powerful portrait of moral choice and personal responsibility, as scientists navigated and#147;the grey zone between complicity and resistance.and#8221; Balland#8217;s account of the different choices these three men and their colleagues made shows how there can be no clear-cut answers or judgement of their conduct. Yet, despite these ambiguities, Ball makes it undeniable that the German scientific establishment as a whole mounted no serious resistance to the Nazis, and in many ways acted as a willing instrument of the state.
Serving the Reich considers what this problematic history can tell us about the relationship of science and politics today. Ultimately, Ball argues, a determination to present science as an abstract inquiry into nature that is and#147;above politicsand#8221; can leave science and scientists dangerously compromised and vulnerable to political manipulation.
Perhaps no scientific breakthrough has shaped the course of human history as much as the harnessing of the atom. Yet the twentieth century might have turned out entirely differently had this powerful technology stayed under the control of Great Britain, whose scientists spearheaded the Allies nuclear arms program at the outset of World War II. As award-winning science historian Graham Farmelo reveals in Churchills Bomb, Britains supposedly visionary leader remained unconvinced of the potentially earth-shattering implications of his physicists research. Churchill ultimately shared Britains nuclear secrets with—and ceded its initiative to—America, whose successful development and deployment of an atomic bomb placed the United States in a position of supreme power at the dawn of the Nuclear Age.
A groundbreaking investigation of the twentieth centurys most important scientific discovery, Churchills Bomb reveals the secret history of the weapon that transformed modern geopolitics.
About the Author
Graham Farmelo is a Bye-Fellow at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, and an adjunct professor of physics at Northeastern University. Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Costa Book Award for The Strangest Man, he lives in London.
Table of Contents
Introduction: and#145;Nobel Prize-winner with dirty handsand#8217;
1 and#145;As conservatively as possible'
2 and#145;Physics must be rebuiltand#8217;
3 and#145;The beginning of something newand#8217;
4 and#145;Intellectual freedom is a thing of the pastand#8217;
5 and#145;Service to science must be service to the nationand#8217;
6 and#145;There is very likely a Nordic scienceand#8217;
7 and#145;You obviously cannot swim against the tideand#8217;
8 and#145;I have seen my death!and#8217;
9 and#145;As a scientist or as a manand#8217;
10 and#145;Hitherto unknown destructive powerand#8217;
11 and#145;Heisenberg was mostly silentand#8217;
12 and#145;We are what we pretend to beand#8217;
Epilogue: and#145;We did not speak the same languageand#8217;
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