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The Making of the Atomic Bomb: 25th Anniversary Edition Paperback – June 12, 2012
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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
The breadth and scope of this gripping narrative is almost as impressive as the story itself. Rhodes ( Looking for America describes the theoretical origins of the bomb, the lab experiments, the building of the prototype, the test at Alamagordo, the training of the B-29 crews assigned to deliver the first two combat bombs and the missions themselves. There's much more. Rhodes, gifted with sharp psychological insight and a novelist's ability to convey character, reveals the personalities and emotional dynamics among Niels Bohr, Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller, Ernest Lawrence, Robert Oppenheimer, General Leslie Groves, Colonel Paul Tibbets and others responsible for conceiving, engineering, testing and ultimately dropping the apocalyptic devices on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In addition he describes the struggle in Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to make the first bomb, as well as the political and military events that led inexorably to the destruction of the Japanese cities. This is the most comprehensive and authoritative book on the subject to date. Illustrations. BOMC alternate.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
"The Making of the Atomic Bomb" is a richly detailed epic, a table-shaking beast of a book that frequently sent me on evening walks to ponder and process the last few chapters I'd read. This is more than just a book about Hiroshima, Oppenheimer, and the Manhattan Project. We get an in-depth look at the early history of atomic physics, the personalities of key scientists, politicians, and military leaders, the complex political and military issues surrounding the bomb's development and use, and the historic and social events that shaped its creation. This is NOT a beach read - better put aside two weeks and plenty of undivided attention before tackling it!
I first read this book back in 2001, and I was totally enthralled by it, devouring it from cover to cover in four days. Having read it four times since then, some cracks have formed in its facade. Namely, it feels like two books grafted together - a decent one on the early history of nuclear physics, and an enthralling one on the actual making of the atomic bomb. The first 250 pages, while perhaps essential, tend to get bogged down by Rhodes' occasionally self-indulgent scene-setting (do we really need to know what shape the windows were?) and rather heavy philosophizing. Things pick up immensely with the actual discovery that the Uranium atom can be split, but I can see why some people give up early on. The "making of" is told with a remarkable lack of sensationalizing and sermonizing, and as horrific as the accounts of the actual bombings are, Rhodes is remarkably nonjudgmental about the bomb's use. People looking for pointed criticisms or historical revisionism will probably be disappointed; although Rhodes clearly abhors war, he seems to view Hiroshima and Nagasaki as the inevitable climax of an increasingly savage conflict against an enemy which refused to surrender. Considering how emotionally charged most books on nuclear weapons are, I actually admired Rhodes' somewhat pragmatic approach. Then again, it might leave others cold and confused.
Although it's not the flawless masterpiece I once held it as, "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" is still a pretty solid tome. It's big, multi-layered, thought-provoking, darkly funny, disturbing, richly detailed, philosophical... and just a tad over-rated. The first third is somewhat rough going, and, in retrospect, could have used some careful editing. The last 500 pages, however, are among the best history writing I've ever read. If the early history of nuclear weapons and nuclear physics fascinates you, give it a shot. You just need some patience going in.
This book traces the history of the atomic bomb going back to the beginnings of modern physics and continuing through the creation of the Hydrogen bomb. Along the way, you receive eminently readable explanations of all the science involved; I estimate that anyone that passed high school chemistry and physics should do just fine. You won't be designing your own bomb by the end of the book, but you will be able to have an intelligent conversation about them.
The highlight of the book is learning about the scientists involved; as you might expect, such extraordinary advances in science required extraordinary men and women to come up with them, and through the course of it's many pages, you will learn all about them. Some criticisms of this book call much of this "extraneous detail", but but I don't feel that's the case at all. Through all this background, you feel as if you truly understand the scientists, and most importantly, their motivations for doing what they did, and how they coped with the implications. The descriptions of the settings in which all this took place gives the whole book a "you are there" feel that is very difficult for works of non-fiction to produce.
Few of the scientists working on the Manhattan project were unaware of the consequences of their work; how each one coped with those consequences was different, and because of the detail provided by the work, you'll understand their different motivations and very different outcomes. Very few of the men and women involved were simple people, and treating them as caricatures, as so many history books do, leads understanding very little of the history involved, and why things turned out the way they did.
In conclusion: This book gives what will certainly go down in history as the definitive work on the creation of the atomic bomb. When studied in such detail, knowing what happened, and all about the men and women that made it happen, can provide important lessons as we scale new scientific frontiers yet to come.