The American Atom: A Documentary History of Nuclear Policies from the Discovery of Fission to the Present / Edition 2

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Ever since the late 1930s, scientists have been sharply divided on the question of atomic energy. It is hardly surprising, then, that the American public is so apprehensive about its use. Hack M. Holl, former chief historian a the U.S. Department of Energy, characterizes the furor over nuclear energy as "one of the great debates in American history."

In this second edition of The American Atom, the editors have updated the collection of primary documents that tell the story of atomic energy in the United States from the discover of fission through the development of nuclear weapons, international proliferation, and attempts at control. Anyone interested in the evolution of the issues will want to examine the book's major sections on the Manhattan Project, the Oppenheimer Case, the hydrogen bomb, nuclear testing and the test ban, proliferation, arms control, and the strategy of deterrence.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A gold mine of revealing and often hard-to-find primary sources."—Nucleus

"Chernobyl has once more demonstrated, as did Three Mile Island, that a nuclear accident anywhere is a nuclear accident everywhere."—Alvin Weinberg

"Debate over nuclear policy, whether about nuclear weapons or nuclear energy, most often focuses on issues of the present or the future. The documents collected in The American Atom remind us, however, that the issues involved have a past. . . . We follow the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the 'father of the American bomb,' thorough his letters, observations of those close to the Manhattan Project and testimony to the Atomic Energy Commission. President Dwight Eisenhower's 1953 'Atoms for Peace' speech demonstrates how far back calls for nuclear sanity go, and the listing of nuclear-weapons accidents shows how dangerous it may be to ignore those calls. The book's purpose is not advocacy . . . but historiography, and among its virtues are listings of readings and suggestions for obtaining source documents. Those interested in the nuclear-technology debate will benefit from this extremely useful compendium."—New York Times

For this edition (first in 1984), the editors have updated the collection of primary documents which tell the story of atomic energy in the US from the discovery of fission through the development of nuclear weapons, international proliferation, and attempts at control. The book also includes a new chapter, reflects on Chernoyl, Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812213546
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/28/1992
  • Edition description: Second Edition
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 392
  • Sales rank: 1,253,007
  • Product dimensions: 0.87 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Philip L. Cantelon is President of History Associates, Inc. Richard G. Hewlett is Senior Vice President of History Associates, Inc., and former chief historian of the Atomic Energy Commission. Robert C. Williams is Professor of History, Dean of the Faculty, and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Davidson College.

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Table of Contents


1. Nuclear Energy: H. G. Wells's Vision, 1914
2. Leo Szilard and the Discovery of Fission
3. The Szilard-Einstein Letter, August 2, 1939
4. The Frisch-Peierls Memorandum, 1940
5. The MAUD Report, 1941

6. Letters of J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1942-45
7. The Quebec Agreement, August 19, 1943
8. Anglo-American Declaration of Trust, June 13, 1944
9. Roosevelt-Churchill Hyde Park Aide-Memoire, September 19, 1944
10. O. R. Frisch, Eyewitness Account of "Trinity" Test, July 1945
11. General Groves's Report on "Trinity," July 18, 1945
12. Truman-Stalin Conversation, Potsdam, July 24, 1945
13. Military Policy Committee Minutes, May 5, 1943
14. Stimson and the Interim Committee, May 1945
15. Interim Committee Minutes, May 31, 1945
16. Science Panel: Recommendations on the Immediate Use of Nuclear Weapons, June 16, 1945
17. Stimson and the Scientists' Concerns, June 26, 1945
18. Chicago Scientists' Petition to the President, July 17, 1945
19. White House Press Release on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945

20. Henry Stimson to Harry S. Truman, September 11, 1945
21. The McMahon Bill, December 20, 1945 (Atomic Energy Act of 1946)
22. The Baruch Plan
23. "What Is the Atom's Industrial Future?" March 8, 1947
24. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's ''Atoms for Peace" Address to the United Nations General Assembly
25. Excerpts from President Eisenhower's Press Conference, March 31, 1954

26. "Political Implications of Detonation of Atomic Bomb by the U.S.S.R.," Department of State, Policy Planning Staff PPS/58, August 16, 1949
27. Statement by the President on Announcing the First Atomic Explosion in the USSR, September 23, 1949
28. USAEC General Advisory Committee Minutes, October 28-30, 1949
29. USAEC General Advisory Committee Report on the "Super," October 30, 1949
30. Lewis Strauss to Harry S. Truman, November 25, 1949
31. Statement by the President on the Hydrogen Bomb, January 31, 1950
32. Hans Bethe, Comments on the History of the H-bomb, 1954

33. K. D. Nichols, General Manager, AEC, to J. R. Oppenheimer, December 23, 1953
34. J. R. Oppenheimer to K. D. Nichols, March 4, 1954
35. Testimony in the Matter of J, Robert Oppenheimer
36, Findings on the Case of J. Robert Oppenheimer: K. D. Nichols to the USAEC, June 12, 1954
37. Arthur Holly Compton to Gordon Gray, April 21, 1954, "Evidence Regarding Loyalty of Robert Oppenheimer

38. Announced Nuclear Tests, 1945-52
39. Reported Nuclear Test Explosions, 1945-68
40. "Civil Defense Faces New Perils," Ralph E. Lapp, 1954
41. Atomic Energy Commission Meeting 1376, May 21, 1958
42. Atomic Energy Commission Meeting 1377, May 28, 1958
43. W. K. Wyant, Jr., ''50,000 Baby Teeth," The Nation, June 13, 1959
44. Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Under Water, August 5, 1963
45. Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapon Tests, July 3, 1974
46. Protocol to the Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Reepublics on the Limitation of Underground Nuclear Weapon Tests, July 3, 1937

47. Bernard Brodie, The Absolute Weapon, 1946
48. John Foster Dulles on "Massive Retaliation," 1954
49. Herman Kahn, On Thermonuclear War, 1960
50. Robert McNamara and Counterforce "No Cities" Doctrine, 1962
51. Presidential Directive 59, 1980
52. President Ronald Reagan on Deterrence, November 23, 1982

53. "Broken Arrows": Nuclear Weapons Accidents, 1950-68
54. White House Statement on the Soviet Missile Sites in Cuba, October 26, 1962
55, White House Statement on Soviet Proposals Relating to International Security, October 27, 1962
56. Message to Chairman Khrushchev Calling for Removal of Soviet Missiles From Cuba, October 27, 1962
57. Message in Reply to a Broadcast by Chairman Khrushchev on the Cuban Crisis, October 28, 1962
58. Statement by the President Following the Soviet Decision to Withdraw Missiles from Cuba, October 28, 1952
59. Memorandum of Understanding between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics Regarding the Establishment of a Direct Communications Link, June 20, 1963 (with Annex)
60. Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, March 5, 1970
61. Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the L...
62. Interim Agreement between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republi...
63. USA-USSR Agreement to Reduce the Risk of Nuclear War Outbreak, September 30, 1972
64. Protocol to the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Re...
65. Salt II Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics ...
66. U.S. Bishops' Pastoral Letter on War and Peace: A Summary
67. William P. Clark, National Security Council, to Archbishop Joseph L. Bernadin, Chairman of the N...

68. Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (selections)
69. Report of the AEC Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards on the Fermi Nuclear Power Plant, 195...
70. AFL-CIO Statement on Fermi, 1956
71. Preliminary Report on Fuel Damage in Fermi Reactor, 1966
72. Calved Cliffs Coordinating Committee versus U.S. Atomic Energy Committee, 1971
73. Three Mile Island; Nuclear News Special Report, April 6, 1979

X Afterword


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