Uranium Wars: The Scientific Rivalry That Created the Nuclear Age
Amir D. Aczel. Palgrave MacMillan, $27 (248pp) ISBN 978-0-230-61374-4
Author and Boston University research fellow Aczel (Fermat's Last Theorem) shares a scientist's history of nuclear chemistry in the 20th century, and its eventual application in the form of the atomic bomb. In the first half, Aczel covers figures of early modern science like the Curies in Paris, the Meitner-Hahn group in Berlin, and Italian physicists before they were driven out by the Fascists. (One of WWII's greatest ironies is that the science Nazis dubbed ""Jewish physics"" gave the Allies their conquering weapon.) Newly released documents and post-war memoirs also help Azcel chronicle German scientists, like Werner Heisenberg, who participated in the Nazi bomb project. Aczel is at his most intriguing analyzing Truman's decision to drop the bomb on Hiroshima; further declassified U.S. documents reveal that the U.S. knew Japanese ambassadors were making peace offers in Moscow before the bombing, and that the destruction of Hiroshima was also meant to send a message to the Soviets. Using a wealth of new source material, Azcel covers the triumphs and mistakes that come from powerful, cutting-edge science, while sounding a cautionary alarm regarding ongoing global conflicts with terrorists and nations.
Reviewed on: 08/31/2009