Books That Inspire 2013

The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Richard Rhodes

National Book Award for Nonfiction (1987), National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction (1987), and Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction (1988).

This book is about the personal lives of mathematicians, chemists, and physicists who fled Europe to escape the Nazis, and with American scientists worked on the atomic bomb project. Breathtaking are the stories of their escape. Woven into these stories are the significance of the Maud report and the major events of World War II. The slowness to develop political support in Washington, D.C. is contrasted with the speed of scientific developments that resulted in the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos and the first nuclear explosion in the desert of New Mexico.

Neils Bohr escaped from Denmark in a man-sized pod attached beneath a British mosquito bomber. Albert Einstein left Germany to teach at Princeton University. Enrico Fermi fled Italy and at the University of Chicago conducted the first chain reaction with uranium. Leo Szilard, who solved a problem in thermodynamics that Einstein said could not be solved, caught the last train out of Germany. While crossing a street in London he had the inspiration of how to unleash the power of the atom. He thereafter greatly feared for humanity.

The author has combined personal stories, scientific developments and the history of World War II into fascinating literature. Do not think that this book is only for scientific minds. My background is accounting and law, and it is the most interesting book I have read.

Jim Davis
Board Member
Bizzell Library Society