Saturday, April 6, 2013

Five best books on scientists in World War II

Stephen Budiansky is the author of fourteen books about military history, intelligence and espionage, science, and the natural world. His most recent book is Blackett’s War, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2013.

For the Wall Street Journal he named a list of the five best books on scientists in World War II, including:
The Making of the Atomic Bomb
by Richard Rhodes (1986)

In this epic history of the Manhattan Project, Richard Rhodes seamlessly weaves perceptive and very human portraits of J. Robert Oppenheimer and other key scientists together with a thorough understanding of the technical challenges they faced and the political and military context in which they operated. Rhodes does the almost impossible—not only making nuclear physics clear (and exciting!) but reconstructing the story as it unfolded to those who lived through it. His finely wrought chapter recounting the first test of the bomb makes clear that the scientists themselves were never entirely sure until the very end that their audacious undertaking would succeed. In the awed moments after the blast, physicist Kenneth Bainbridge congratulated Oppenheimer and the other Los Alamos leaders—then observed, "Now we are all sons of bitches."
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Making of the Atomic Bomb is on Jon Gertner's list of six notable books about science and tech, William Rosen's five best list of books about inventions, and Michael Evans's list of six top books on nuclear war.

--Marshal Zeringue