Home Authors Books Subjects Events Software Features Links Newsletter Gifts Blog Write Review What's New
Review - Before the Fall-out: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima - Diana Preston
This is a highly compelling, and in places positively gripping, account of the discovery of radioactivity and nuclear physics and its subsequent use in the first atomic bomb. The physics involved is described in a very clear and readable manner, but what really makes this book a page-turner is the fact that we get the human story behind the narrative of the scientific discoveries made.
Preston does an excellent job of relating the biographical details of the key scientists such as the Curies and Ernest Rutherford in the early days of the science of radioactivity. The work of Otto Hans and Lise Mietner, their struggles in Nazi Germany, their subsequent escape and gradual realization of the potential of nuclear energy are also vividly described.
As you might expect a fair proportion of the book is devoted to the Manhattan Project and the tension between Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller. Preston also does an excellent job of portraying everyday life at Los Alamos for the scientists and their families.
We also discover the thrilling details of how the German nuclear bomb programme was stopped in its tracks by a daring operation carried out by British forces to destroy a Norwegian heavy water plant. Preston also delves in to the ambiguity of how much Heisenberg actually knew about the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, and in her epilogue speculates as to what might have happened if the Nazi programme had succeeded.
Probably the most moving sections of the book concern the inhabitants of Hiroshima and the crew of the Enola Gay – Preston’s handling of this is particularly superb and she balances the two viewpoints on the dropping of the nuclear bomb supremely well. What makes this book a worthy addition to anyone’s library is not the details of the science as such, but the fact that we get the stories of the individuals involved in one of the most significant historical events of the twentieth century.
Also in hardback:
Reviewed by Scotty_73
This site has no connection with Popular Science magazine or other sites and publications with a similar name.
Much of the content of this site is written by popular science writers or friends of popular science writers. Inevitably many of the reviews in such a small community are written by or about someone we know. We always aim to be impartial in our reviews, but there is a connection which we need make clear, as there is no intention to deceive. The content of any review or article is solely the opinion of the author and should not be read or understood on any other basis. The site exists to promote popular science writing and popular science authors and for this reason should be considered promotional material, just as the editorial reviews in an online bookshop or the blurb on the back of a book should be considered promotional.
The website should not be eaten or used where it can come into contact with water.
Disagree with our review? Want to comment on a feature? Contact us at info@ popularscience.co.uk - have your say!
Part of the site
Copyright © Creativity
Unleashed Limited 2005
Last update 05 June 2007