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

4.1 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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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: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,746,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Brian Van Demark, writes about the the men designed and built the world first Atomic Bomb and the concern they had about it's use against innocents. Many of the same issues were covered by Richard Rhodes, in his great book 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb'. The designers had problems with the fact that the great feat of Science they performed would change the world for ever. They should be less conerned because Nuclear Devices have never been used in War since the first two were dropped on Japan, they are so terrible that leaders have blinked from ever using them. That achievement is something they would have been proud of.
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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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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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Format: Hardcover
The Soviet Union scientists -- and, yes, the Soviet Union had world class scientists, too -- successfully tested an atomic bomb almost exactly four years after we first tested our atom bomb in July of 1945.

I wonder what we would be writing -- even if we were still a free people who were allowed to write -- about these same nine men if they had refused to work on the bomb.

The simple fact is that the atom bomb ended up saving untold millions of lives.

As Richard Rhodes -- author of the masterful book "The Making of the Atomic Bomb" -- said on the History Channel's "The Manhattan Project":

"If you graph the human deaths from wars across the last 200 years, you will see an exponential increase up to 1945 at which point the line on the graph drops to about a million a year and stays there for the rest of the century. Clearly, there was a radical break in international affairs in 1945, and I think that break has to be attributed to this discovery that scientists made working peacefully in their laboratories trying to understand how the world really works rather than how we would wish that it worked."

As Robert Oppenheimer said, "A scientist cannot hold back progress because of fears of what the world will do with his discoveries."
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