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Scientists in Power by Spencer R. Weart

Scientists in Power

by Spencer R. Weart

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0674795156, Hardcover)

A small group of scientists in Paris was among the first in the world to take nuclear fission dead seriously. During one extraordinary year the team wrote a secret patent, sketched a workable device, and persuaded government and industry to underwrite their research.

The year was 1939.

The secret patent was a crude uranium bomb.

The device was a nuclear reactor.

Spencer Weart tells the astonishing story of how a few individuals at laboratory benches unleashed a power that has transformed our world. Weart's riveting account of the origins of nuclear energy--the first to be written by an author who is both physicist and historian--follows developments from Marie Curie's experiments with radium to the late 1940s when her son-in-law, Frédéric Joliot-Curie, launched France's atomic energy program, opening the age of nuclear arms proliferation. Focusing on the French work, which was often only days or even hours apart from similar breakthroughs in the United States and elsewhere, the author probes all parts of the discovery process. He covers not only the crucial steps from laboratory experiment to working reactor and bomb, but also the wider campaign of these French scientist-politicians to secure funds and materials on an unheard-of scale and to govern the outcome of their work through secrecy and patents. A rounded portrait of the French team's interaction with the rest of society, Scientists in Power reveals the close connections among laboratory breakthroughs, industrial and military interests, and the flow of politics and ideology.

The account ranges from lucid explanation of the technical challenges overcome by the scientists to suspenseful stories of escape and covert operations in World War II, such as the airlifting of hundreds of pounds of "heavy water" from Norway to France under the nose of an alerted Luftwaffe. Among the contributions of these scientists, who laid much of the groundwork for the Manhattan Project, are new perceptions about the sociology and politics of science. In short, Scientists in Power affords an outstandingly clear and readable exploration of the relations among science, society, and technology--relations at the fulcrum of modern history.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:44 -0400)

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