Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex

Michael Hiltzik. Simon & Schuster, $30 (528p) ISBN 978-1-4516-7575-7
Ernest Lawrence may have been overlooked by history in favor of contemporaries like Einstein, Oppenheimer, and Fermi, but his impact on modern science is undeniable. In this dual history of Lawrence and the movement he single-handedly brought into being, Hiltzik (The New Deal), a business columnist at the Los Angeles Times, explains how Lawrence’s postwar research exceeded the budgets of universities and philanthropic foundations, necessitating government patronage. Lawrence’s first cyclotron, a device intended to energize subatomic protons in order to allow them to penetrate the nuclei of atoms, was a breakthrough for nuclear physics and also changed the way science was performed. In order to understand ever-smaller subatomic particles, Lawrence was ironically pressed to build increasingly larger and more expensive apparatus. His machines won him a Nobel Prize in 1939 and also helped the Allies win WWII: Lawrence’s Radiation Lab in Berkeley, Calif., provided much of the staff and materials used to develop the atomic bomb. Hiltzik demonstrates profound ambivalence about the consequences of the rise of the military-industrial complex—both its expense and its complicity in the nuclear arms race are problematic—but his portrait of Lawrence, who gave birth to the modern research lab through sheer force of will, is powerful nonetheless. Photos. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/04/2015
Release date: 07/07/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-62231-887-2
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-1-4516-7603-7
Paperback - 528 pages - 978-1-4516-7576-4
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