Making of the Atomic Bomb

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Simon and Schuster, Sep 18, 2012 - History - 928 pages
2 Reviews
Twenty-five years after its initial publication, The Making of the Atomic Bomb remains the definitive history of nuclear weapons and the Manhattan Project. From the turn-of-the-century discovery of nuclear energy to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan, Richard Rhodes’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book details the science, the people, and the socio-political realities that led to the development of the atomic bomb.

This sweeping account begins in the 19th century, with the discovery of nuclear fission, and continues to World War Two and the Americans’ race to beat Hitler’s Nazis. That competition launched the Manhattan Project and the nearly overnight construction of a vast military-industrial complex that culminated in the fateful dropping of the first bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Reading like a character-driven suspense novel, the book introduces the players in this saga of physics, politics, and human psychology—from FDR and Einstein to the visionary scientists who pioneered quantum theory and the application of thermonuclear fission, including Planck, Szilard, Bohr, Oppenheimer, Fermi, Teller, Meitner, von Neumann, and Lawrence.

From nuclear power’s earliest foreshadowing in the work of H.G. Wells to the bright glare of Trinity at Alamogordo and the arms race of the Cold War, this dread invention forever changed the course of human history, and The Making of The Atomic Bomb provides a panoramic backdrop for that story.

Richard Rhodes’s ability to craft compelling biographical portraits is matched only by his rigorous scholarship. Told in rich human, political, and scientific detail that any reader can follow, The Making of the Atomic Bomb is a thought-provoking and masterful work.

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Mario Chiefs would give a better representation of the atomic events do to there relative proximity. Rhodes bombards one with Scientific notation to the number 21, while not ever engaging the people who died for the making of the bomb. It is definitely a platter served up like Seadar dinner, never changing and widely accepted by a few. Conveniently explained in a pure scientific manner as if that is all there is to it.
Forget H.G. Wells and follow authors like Julies Verne, and J.M. Barrie for a better of our future. You won't get a head ache and keep a dictionary by your side to look up a word on every other page.
A hard hitting account of a NICE WAY TO BUILD A BOMB

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Welcome to the Machine
Toward the end of this momentous, detailed narrative of how the atomic bomb was conceived & executed, I grappled with how I might succinctly share my impressions of its
magnitude. In an obliquely inspired & somewhat ironically hinged connection I thought of Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine." At the time, the eponymous named tune of the album, presented my son & I a unique opportunity - a rocket ship ride to the stars. I'd pull our large stereo speakers close together & the two of us (Jason was 3 at the time) would lie down on the floor as I cranked up the volume. For those familiar with the stadium pleasing anthem you might recall that given the right leap of fancy, it was quite possible to imagine the opening overture as the sounds associated with a rocket blasting off into space. And then came the haunting lyrics that echoed in my ears as I finished reading this terrifying tome: "Welcome my son, welcome to the machine. Where have you been? It's alright we know where you've been, You've been in the pipeline, filling in time ..."
And so have we all since a coterie of this planet's most brilliant physicists ushered into our world the discovery of nuclear fission.What Rhodes does a brilliant job of is to magnify in excruciating detail both the level of complexity & the dedication of our national resources to creating our first weapon of mass destruction. While conceived over a decade and a half, the bulk of the atomic bomb project occurred at the Los Alamos labs in Santa Fe, New Mexico. At the height of its production powers the lab exceeded in funds spent & materials produced by the entire automotive industry. It was no small task to create an atomic bomb. Indeed, it was a Herculean effort to produce this machine of death -perhaps the most ingenious & evil creation hatched in the 20th century. By the conclusion of this important & at times difficult to digest story (Rhodes goes into great technical detail - much of which floated beyond my comprehension) the reader understands quite well that a door has been opened that can never again, be closed.


Atoms and Void
The Long Grave Already Dug
Men from Mars
Stirring and Digging
Physics and Desert Country
Different Animals
The Evils of This Time
Life and Death
Tongues of Fire

An Extensive Burst
A Peculiar Sovereignty
Cross Sections 3 18
A Communication from Britain
The New World

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Page 29 - All these things being considered, it seems probable to me, that God in the beginning formed Matter in solid, massy, hard, impenetrable, moveable particles, of such sizes and figures, and with such other properties, and in such proportion to space, as most conduced to the end for which he formed them...
Page 49 - It was quite the most incredible event that has ever happened to me in my life. It was almost as incredible as if you fired a 15-inch shell at a piece of tissue paper and it came back and hit you.
Page 28 - I crossed the street, it suddenly occurred to me that if we could find an element which is split by neutrons and which would emit two neutrons when it absorbed one neutron, such an element, if assembled in sufficiently large mass, could sustain a nuclear chain reaction.
Page 30 - But though in the course of ages catastrophes have occurred, and may yet occur in the heavens; though ancient systems may be dissolved and new systems evolved out of their ruins; the molecules out of which these systems are built — the foundation stones of the material universe — remain unbroken and unworn.

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About the author (2012)

Richard Rhodes is the author of numerous books and the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He graduated from Yale University and has received fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Appearing as host and correspondent for documentaries on public television’s Frontline and American Experience series, he has also been a visiting scholar at Harvard and MIT and is an affiliate of the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. Visit his website:

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