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Pandora's Keepers Nine Men and The Atomic Bomb Hardcover – January 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Little, Brown & Company, Boston, MA; First Edition edition (2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316738336
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316738330
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,388,791 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Winnetka reader on December 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Even if you've read many of the A-bomb books (as I have), you'll find a new angle here. That angle involves the personalities of 9 of the physicists who were swept from their idyllic careers of research and teaching to create the atomic bomb. Virtually everyone of them lives to regret their participation in the Manhattan Project, with the notable exception of Edward Teller. Teller, of course, goes on to develop the H-bomb in the early 1950's and is despised by most of his former atomic bomb colleagues.

Oppenheimer, Fermi, Bethe, Bohr, Teller, Lawrence, Compton, Rabi, Szillard. By book's end these will be more than names and faces; these 9 very different, very complicated men came together for a couple of short years and were forever linked. In 1943 they thought they were saving the world. By 1946 most were afraid they may have destroyed it. VanDeMark has done a marvelous job of fitting 9 biographies into a very readable, not overly long book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. Green VINE VOICE on December 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth and was given a beautiful container which she was told never to open. But, of course, her curiosity got the better of her and when she opened it all the evil inside escaped into the world. When she tried to close it the only thing left inside was the Spirit of Hope. Pandora was afraid she would be punished, but Zeus didn't because he knew it would happen from the beginning, and so Hope was released as well.

It's easy to see the parallel to the story of Adam and Eve and the forbidden fruit, but Brian VanDeMark draws a more modern parallel to the beginning of the nuclear age. Instead of simply retelling the story of the Manhattan Project or the subsequent nuclear arms race, VanDeMark focuses on nine men who were involved in it: Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi, I. I. Rabi, Niels Bohr, Edward Teller, Ernest Lawrence, Arthur Compton, Robert Oppenheimer, and Hans Bethe. Some were theoreticists whose insights paved the way, others were instrumental in refining the uranium and plutonium, and others put it all together in the mountains of New Mexico. All were incredibly brilliant men who changed the world.

Many of them had been forced to leave their European homelands by the threat of Nazism and found a welcoming community in America of fellow scientists and thinkers. Physics in those days was a mostly theoretical exercise with little practical application. But when it became known that Nazi scientists were working on splitting the atom to unleash its destructive power, the Manhattan Project was born with a goal of developing an atomic bomb first. But it wasn't just the threat that drove them; it was also the opportunity of a lifetime to pursue an intense professional curiosity.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sasha Alyson on April 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
With the skill of a fine novelist, Brian VanDeMark takes on a far more ominous subject as he fleshes out the lives and actions of 9 atomic scientists before, while, and after they created the first atomic bomb. It was a diverse group, some motivated to build a bomb out of fear that Hitler would otherwise get it first; others happy to do it simply because it could be done, with no concern for the consequences.

He deftly weaves together several threads, giving a broad explanation of the science involved, as he vividly describes the clashes and discussions, and sometimes lack of discussion, among scientists, political leaders, and the military, as the bomb was developed.

Half of the book is set after Hiroshima, and it's equally riveting. Top-rate minds, who thought being right was enough, were confronted by second-rate minds who hoarded power and grievances.

Today, we can all look back and freely offer our opinion about whether the atomic bomb should have been used. VanDeMark helps us focus on what the scientists knew, and didn't know, as they worked. Would Germany develop the bomb first? What would happen if Germany won the war? After the nuclear genie was released, could it ever be controlled?

VanDeMark did an enormous amount of research, then sorted all the facts, observations, and reports into a riveting book. "Pandora's Keepers" is a shining example how history should be told.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Yu on October 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
How to write another book on the development of the A bomb, the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos? VanDeMark decides to intertwine nine men, and focus on their relationship, trials and tribulations during those crucial months. There is too much political debate on the implications of the development and usage of the bomb, and too little technicalities, for my taste. And the decision to include Bohr is questionable, when many others should rank ahead of him. While Bohr is a giant in atomic theory, he was well past his prime by this stage and was (even according to the book) mainly concerned with the consequences of having this weapon. Many were surprised to even see 'Nicholas Baker' at Los Alamos, and Oppenheimer said of him, "Bohr at Los Alamos was marvelous; he took a very lively interest...but his real function was not technical."[1]Some of the younger scientists did not even realize that Bohr was still alive.[1] Bohr himself admitted that "They did not need me to make the atomic bomb."[1] Einstein, by his letter to FDR alone would have ranked above him, and other less than household names should have. Frisch or Peierls, who started the ball rolling by confirming theoretically that a neutron chain reaction could be maintained are deserving; Seaborg, the plutonium expert; Neddemayer, who figured out how to detonate the plutonium (Pu detonates much faster than U, so the gun approach used on the uranium bomb, was too slow), and designed the implosion by shock wave method, which led to a spherical 'gadget', hence the Fat Man. And if non-physicist can be included, then without doubt, General Groves, or FDR himself, who placed the necessary stamp on the whole thing in the dark days of 1941-42.
[1] Rhodes,R. The Making of the Atomic bomb
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