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Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex Paperback – July 26, 2016
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“Lucidly written. . . . Hiltzik’s tale is important for understanding how science and politics entwine in the United States, and he moves it along efficiently, with striking details and revealing quotations.” (Robert P. Crease The New York Times Book Review)
"Entertaining, thoroughly researched . . . an unusual take on Lawrence’s life and work—partly a biography, partly an account of the influence of his great idea, partly a short history of nuclear physics and the Bomb.” (Graham Farmelo The Wall Street Journal)
"This is an astonishing story: US physicist Ernest Lawrence is at its core, but its scope is broad and full of context and characters." (Jon Butterworth Nature)
"Absorbing and expansive. . . . Beyond the sheer thrill of the story, Hiltzik's delightful book is invaluable as a basis for reckoning how Big Science can persevere and evolve." (Jonathon Keats The Los Angeles Times)
“The author of several books on the interplay of society and technology, Hiltzik is best at making the science of Lawrence’s lab accessible to the reader.” (Gregg Herken The Washington Post)
"A fascinating biography of a physicist who transformed how science is done." (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“Michael Hiltzik tells an epic story, one with arenas of tragedy as well as triumph, and he tells it well.” (Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian)
“Einstein famously formulated new theories of the universe while sitting alone in the patent office in Bern. Today, many endeavors in fundamental research require large budgets, elaborate facilities, and huge staffs. How did science become ‘Big Science’? In this fascinating book, Michael Hiltzik gives us the inside story of this remarkable metamorphosis. This is a gripping biography of Big Science and of the people who originated it.” (Mario Livio, Astrophysicist, and author of Brilliant Blunders)
"An informative and thought-provoking account of the role played by the cyclotron and Lawrence’s radiation laboratory in the emergence of the military-industrial complex." (Glenn C. Altschuler Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
“An exciting book. . . . A bright narrative that captures the wonder of nuclear physics without flying off into a physics Neverland. . . . Big Science is an excellent summary of how physics became nuclear and changed the world.” (Jules Wagman Cleveland Plain-Dealer)
About the Author
Michael Hiltzik is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author who has covered business, technology, and public policy for the Los Angeles Times for three decades. He currently serves as the Times’s business columnist and hosts its business blog, The Economy Hub. His books include Big Science, The New Deal, Colossus, Dealers of Lightning, and The Plot Against Social Security. Mr. Hiltzik received the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for articles exposing corruption in the entertainment industry. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two children. Follow him on Twitter @HiltzikM.
Top customer reviews
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The consolidation of atomic science and the success and failures associated with melding them into functioning, lethal atomic weapons is very well approached. The book is logically divided into time spans, technology and biography, and is a well balance, interesting presentation. Disagreeing with some other reviewers, I would have enjoyed a more descriptions of the physics but suppose Mr. Hiltzik was cautioned this might lose readers. Those subjects can easily be found on other websites, so that is no great loss. I am hard pressed to find any criticisms. It is well written and nicely balanced. I believe his biographies are as objective as possible, considering his available source material. I enjoyed reading about all the scientists, politicians and their personalities, which added immensely to my understanding.
This is a very good biography and description of how physics influenced technology and weapon production, a wonderful description of our appropriate mid-century paranoia, and a fine personal biography of Berkeley’s most influential, important citizen. I recommend it without reservation.
Although an insightful physicist, Lawrence realized that the cyclotron need constant funding as each model solved a few problems and made the next bigger model possible. Although he built and ran the Berkeley Radiation Lab, most of his time was spent fund raising, which required his combination of technical skills and engaging style and confidence to be successful. He engaged with many top physicists of the day which was a time of enormous physics advances. There were missteps along the way, but he managed to learn from the errors and always move forward. His story is one of great inspiration.
I highly recommend this book.
The message I received is that big times require forceful, dynamic and smart people. Fortunately, Dr. Lawrence had all of these qualities at a time of great peril to the USA. We can only hope that Dr. Lawrence's leadership can be replicated in the dangerous times we now live in!
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