The First War of Physics: The Secret History of the Atomic Bomb, 1939-1949 by Jim Baggott, NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
The First War of Physics: The Secret History of the Atomic Bomb, 1939-1949

The First War of Physics: The Secret History of the Atomic Bomb, 1939-1949

by Jim Baggott
     
 

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An epic story of science and technology at the very limits of human understanding: the monumental race to build the first atomic weapons.
Rich in personality, action, confrontation, and deception, The First War of Physics is the first fully realized popular account of the race to build humankind's most destructive weapon. The book draws on declassified

Overview

An epic story of science and technology at the very limits of human understanding: the monumental race to build the first atomic weapons.
Rich in personality, action, confrontation, and deception, The First War of Physics is the first fully realized popular account of the race to build humankind's most destructive weapon. The book draws on declassified material, such as MI6's Farm Hall transcripts, coded soviet messages cracked by American cryptographers in the Venona project, and interpretations by Russian scholars of documents from the soviet archives.
Jim Baggott weaves these threads into a dramatic narrative that spans ten historic years, from the discovery of nuclear fission in 1939 to the aftermath of 'Joe-1,’ August 1949's first Soviet atomic bomb test. Why did physicists persist in developing the atomic bomb, despite the devastation that it could bring? Why, despite having a clear head start, did Hitler's physicists fail? Could the soviets have developed the bomb without spies like Klaus Fuchs or Donald Maclean? Did the allies really plot to assassinate a key member of the German bomb program? Did the physicists knowingly inspire the arms race? The First War of Physics is a grand and frightening story of scientific ambition, intrigue, and genius: a tale barely believable as fiction, which just happens to be historical fact.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Dobbs
The basic elements of this story have been told many times before, of course. Readers familiar with the standard works on the subject will find little that is new or particularly startling in The First War of Physics…That said, this 576-page history provides an excellent introduction to a vast and complicated topic. By examining the competition among America, Russia and Germany, it knits together developments on different sides of the Atlantic into a brisk, exciting and comprehensive narrative.
—The New York Times
Library Journal
Gen. Leslie Groves wrote a history of the Manhattan Project in 1962 (Now It Can Be Told), Richard Rhodes won a Pulitzer for his 1988 The Making of the Atomic Bomb, and this timeless story continues to be the subject of various recent books (e.g., Diana Preston's Before the Fallout and Amir D. Aczel's Uranium Wars). What distinguishes this account of the creation of the bomb is its equal emphasis on science and politics. Bolstered by access to previously classified American and Soviet documents, science writer Baggott depicts the massive scientific undertaking against the backdrop of wartime geopolitics, espionage, uneasy alliances, and the start of the Cold War. Many of the key players here are physicists, of course, but there are also diplomats, generals, intelligence officers, and investigative journalists. VERDICT The first "war" of physics was a race with very high stakes. Baggott contributes a novel perspective to the story, looking at the Anglo-American, German, and Soviet atomic programs, and as such provides a broad thematic history.—Gregg Sapp, Evergreen State Coll. Lib., Olympia, WA
Publishers Weekly
Science journalist Baggott addresses a subject he describes as both personal and intellectual. How did the nuclear bomb, “this dreadful instrument of fear, come to be created?” Specifically, how did some of the world's great physicists contribute to a process that would “recalibrate what it means to be inhuman?” His answers combine published sources and recently declassified British, American, and Soviet archival material. He seeks the answers in the period from the discovery of nuclear fission in 1939, through the efforts by the combatants to develop nuclear weapons, to the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the early cold war arms race. Through these years, the author follows the great physicists, from Otto Frisch to Werner Heisenberg and Edward Teller. They realized early on the terrible power they could unleash, and FDR was warned of German efforts to develop a nuclear weapon. Baggott concludes that the confluence of the discovery of nuclear fission with the leadup to war made the atom bomb inevitable, and the scientists were “drawn inexorably” into its development. Baggott's assertion that events confronted scientists with “[d]ecisions for which they were poorly prepared” is anticlimactic but all too accurate. (Apr.)
Booklist
“Starred Review. As readers will recognize while pondering a conclusion outlining the global implications of the 2002 Moscow Treat on nuclear disarmament, we still live in the shadow of the events chronicled so vividly here.”
Michael Dobbs - The New York Times
“[A]n excellent introduction to a vast and complicated topic.”
A. N. Wilson
“I never read such a good, comprehensive account as Jim Baggott's. Highly recommended.”
Mark Walker
“This is a very good book. I
particularly like the way Baggott has been able to weave the science,
'grand-scale' politics and espionage together into one compelling narrative.”
Martin J. Sherwin
“World War II changed many things and not the least among them was the relationship of science to the military. Readers interested in this important historic transformation will find Jim Baggott's engaging history replete with drama and insight.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781605981451
Publisher:
Pegasus
Publication date:
03/31/2006
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
576
File size:
960 KB

Meet the Author

Jim Baggott is an award-winning science writer. A former academic chemist, he maintains a broad interest in science, philosophy, and history, and writes on these subjects for New Scientist and other journals. His books have been widely acclaimed and include A Beginner's Guide to Reality
(Pegasus, 2006), The First War of Physics (Pegasus, 2010), The Meaning of Quantum Physics (Oxford, 1992), and Beyond Measure Modern Physics, Philosophy, and the Meaning of Quantum Theory (Oxford, 2004). He lives in England.

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