Doomsday Men: The Real Dr. Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon [NOOK Book]

Overview

This is the gripping, untold story of the doomsday bomb—the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. In 1950, Hungarian-born scientist Leo Szilard made a dramatic announcement on American radio: science was on the verge of creating a doomsday bomb. For the first time in history, mankind realized that he had within his grasp a truly God-like power, the ability to destroy life itself. The shockwave from this statement reverberated across the following decade and beyond.

If detonated, ...

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Doomsday Men: The Real Dr. Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon

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Overview

This is the gripping, untold story of the doomsday bomb—the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. In 1950, Hungarian-born scientist Leo Szilard made a dramatic announcement on American radio: science was on the verge of creating a doomsday bomb. For the first time in history, mankind realized that he had within his grasp a truly God-like power, the ability to destroy life itself. The shockwave from this statement reverberated across the following decade and beyond.

If detonated, Szilard's doomsday device—a huge cobalt-clad H-bomb—would pollute the atmosphere with radioactivity and end all life on earth. The scientific creators of such apocalyptic weapons had transformed the laws of nature into instruments of mass destruction and for many people in the Cold War there was little to distinguish real scientists from that “fictional master of megadeath,” Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. Indeed, as PD Smith’s chilling account shows, the dream of the superweapon begins in popular culture. This is a story that cannot be told without the iconic films and fictions that portray our deadly fascination with superweapons, from H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds to Nevil Shute’s On the Beach and Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Although scientists admitted it was possible to build the cobalt bomb, no superpower would admit to having created one. However, it remained a terrifying possibility, striking fear into the hearts of people around the world. The story of the cobalt bomb is an unwritten chapter of the Cold War, but now PD Smith reveals the personalities behind this feared technology and shows how the scientists responsible for the twentieth century’s most terrible weapons grew up in a culture dreaming of superweapons and Wellsian utopias. He argues that, in the end, the doomsday machine became the ultimate symbol of humanity’s deepest fears about the science of destruction.


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Editorial Reviews

William Grimes
"Less than a decade after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, total annihilation of the human race haunted the imagination of scientists and writers alike, a convergence that P. D. Smith chronicles doggedly in Doomsday Men: The Real Dr. Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon."
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429984867
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 12/10/2007
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 674,634
  • File size: 5 MB

Meet the Author



P.D. Smith is an independent researcher and writer. He has taught at University College London where he is an Honorary Research Fellow in the Science and Technology Studies Department.  He regularly reviews books for the Guardian, and has written for the Independent, the Financial Times and the Times Literary Supplement among other journals. His previous books are Metaphor and Materiality: German Literature and the World-View of Science 1780-1955 and a biography of Einstein. He lives in Hampshire.

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Table of Contents


List of illustrations     xi
Acknowledgements     xiv
Prologue: The Beginning or The End?     xvii
The Dream
A Black Day     3
The Gift of Destruction     12
The Plutonium Collector     29
Nature's Secrets     52
The Chemist's War
The Prospero of Poisons     83
The Man Who Ended War     98
Einstein's Open Sesame     122
The Dark Heart of Matter
The Capital of Physics     149
The Inventor of All Things     163
Faust and the Physicists     179
Eureka!     207
Wings over Europe     224
The Battle of the Laboratories
'Power Beyond the Dream of a Madman'     239
Conceived in Fear     264
Devil's Work     280
Destroyer of Worlds     304
The End of Dreams
The Doomsday Decade     339
The Hell Bomb     365
Khrushchev's Monsters     396
Strangeloves     419
Epilogue: 'The Tragedy of Mankind'     437
Notes     443
Bibliography     500
Index     531
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2014

    A good addition to a Cold War bookshelf

    Well researched and focused specifically on the topic of ultimate weapons developed during the latter half of the 20th Century, the era of The Cold War. The obvious focus is on weapons of mass destruction, and there are included all types of NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons) as well as information about earlier experimentation during the World Wars (both I and II). The story looks equally at all of the antagonists, their experiments and tests, and their desire to create an ultimate weapon that would end the Cold War. Very interesting read if you have interest in either the topic or the historical period being researched. The quality and veracity of this book led me to Hoffman's "The Dead Hand."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2009

    Engagingly Written, Highly Informative

    Doomsday Men is engagingly written and a pleasure to read. It provides an excellent, highly readable scientific and cultural history of the development of weapons of mass destruction for warfare. While the focus is on the development of nuclear weapons, the book also talks about the poison gas and other horrible weapons deployed during World War I. The science is presented in a manner anyone can learn from and even more valuable the book talks about cultural history of books, literature and other plays of the period, such as the works of HG Wells etc that appeared during this time frame. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the cold war, weapons of mass destruction and science history around the development of modern weapons of mass destruction. Its a grim topic, but one that everyone needs to know, and there are very few books like this one that are so readable and informative about a very complicated political and scientific topic. The only downside is the paper quality used in the book is not the high quality acid free paper you might expect.

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