Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare” as Want to Read:
Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  289 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
The exciting history of a small group of British and American scientists who, during World War II, developed the new field of operational research to turn back the tide of German submarines—revolutionizing the way wars are waged and won.

In March 1941, after a year of unbroken and devastating U-boat onslaughts, the British War Cabinet decided to try a new strategy in the f
ebook, 336 pages
Published February 19th 2013 by Vintage
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Blackett's War, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Blackett's War

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Igor Ljubuncic
Jan 25, 2015 Igor Ljubuncic rated it it was amazing
As usual, Stephen does a stellar job of translating a historical telling into a remarkable thriller full of personal spins and anecdotes. The things that happened are interspersed with rich detail about the people who participated in the war effort, their little egomaniacal decisions, their idiosyncrasies, the bickering, the bureaucracy. It's amazing. I have not found another author that does such a mesmerizing work with non-fiction.

Anyhow, this book, alongside his enigma work, air power, and th
Jean Poulos
September 1, 2014 will mark the 75th anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the start of WWII. One of the least considered, but most critical, aspects of the War was the contest for control of the sea. The pervasive conflict, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called “the Battle of the Atlantic”. Germany dominated early fighting in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Battle of the Atlantic, in its scope and significance, the sea was vast. It covered more area and lasted longer, 1939-19 ...more
Donald Luther
Jan 10, 2015 Donald Luther rated it really liked it
When I was in grad school, the most significant development in the historiography of Modern Britain (aside from the whole New Social History stuff that was going on in the 70s) was the revelation about Ultra.

Winterbotham's 'The Ultra Secret' came out in 1974, just as I was moving into the Ph.D. program and, as my mentor said, it would require all of World War II history to be re-written. It did.

I've been able to keep up with a lot of that rewriting, and when I was teaching Combined Studies, I go
Mar 24, 2014 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Shelves: histories
Blackett's War is a very interesting and informative book about the men who brought science to bear on the U-Boat problem during the Second World War. Blackett's group had to overcome the military's distrust of outsiders telling them how to proceed with operations during the war.
This story is about both British and American scientists who were involved in presenting statistical analysis and truly inspirational ideas to both countries militaries and getting them to follow through. As the autho
Bob Mobley
May 23, 2013 Bob Mobley rated it it was amazing
Stephen Budiansky has written one of the best studies I have read about the men working together during World War II who defeated the Nazi U-Boats. In writing this compelling story, Budiansky has opened the door and cast an important "light" upon the role of Science in successfully contributing to military victory. Using as his core theme the career of Patrick Blackett, Budiansky has written a fascinating Biorgaphy, and in doing so has created a book about leaders and their leadership. What stan ...more
Oct 16, 2016 Lee rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Submarines are a fascinating technology, and a much older one than I had realized. I knew about the Confederate's Civil War era Hunley, but it was not the first. It was World War I that really cemented the role of submarines as a weapons platform, but it was World War II where their menace was most effective, especially around the English isles where shipping was the lifeline for civilians and military alike. German submarines even harassed shipping along the east coast of America.

In the hiatus
Oct 26, 2016 Derk rated it it was amazing
Well told story of how leading scientists brought improvements to the British anti-submarine mission during WW-II. Plenty of background information to provide context. It was done not by inventing technology, but rather by analyzing data and make suggestions for improving organization and doctrine.
Mac McCormick III
Aug 16, 2014 Mac McCormick III rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, military
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Blackett’s War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-Boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare by Stephen Budiansky. If you’re expecting a history of the Manhattan Project or the story of scientists developing weapons systems, you’re in for a surprise. It is a very different history of World War II than many you’ll read; it concentrates on the science and scientists that changed how militaries looked at things during the war and changed military thought and science ...more
Jul 06, 2013 Ilya rated it really liked it
During World War II several British scientists including Patrick Blackett, a World War I naval officer turned physicist, invented operations research: making military decisions based on statistical data as opposed to the highest ranking officer's opinion. Combined with the breaking of the German naval code, this caused Britain and the United States to win the war against German U-boats, which allowed Britain to import enough food and fuel to survive the war, the United States to transport enough ...more
Long Yang
Operation research's origin in anti-U-BOAT war, very interesting historical accounting. Illustrating the power of logical and mathematical thinking, and the importance of problem solving from "operational" angle.

It would be better if it had more operational case studies.
Sep 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Finally finishing it after two times of renewal from library!

Interesting book, illuminated the power of logical and mathematical thinking, especially the important problem from the "operational" angle.

It would be better if more operational case stuides were included.
Sep 19, 2016 Victor rated it it was amazing
How scientific thinking won the war of the Atlantic.
Mar 25, 2015 Jim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: World War II and history buffs and to readers of science books.
Recommended to Jim by: King County Library
As a World War II buff, I was thrilled to "discover" BLACKETT'S WAR (ISBN 978-0307743633, trade paperback, $16.95) by STEPHEN BUDIANSKY. The first half of the book introduces the cast of characters, all of whom were real scientists. It also sets the background for why these men were approached by, or volunteered their services to, the British and American military forces. Patrick Blackett was a Nobel Prize winning physicist for his discovery (1932) of the positron. He received the Nobel prize in ...more
Elli Williams
Sep 11, 2016 Elli Williams rated it liked it
Interesting book, Reads like a script of a Nova episode. Kind of technical, but I liked it.
May 27, 2013 Desiree rated it really liked it
this is my first foray into WWII Naval history and I haven't been able to stop talking about this book. Besides the author's uncanny ability to keep you interested through long bouts of mathematical and scientific explanations, the warfare and political biases, the details and history leading up to WWII, he brings it all together in a fascinating and revealing way. I liked best how the author captured how difficult it was for scientists of the era to show they could not only be helpful, but migh ...more
May 31, 2015 Phyllis rated it really liked it
I have been reading a great number of novels about WWII as well as studying what led up to WWII and I wanted to dive in to some nonfiction regarding the War. I chose this book because it is not filled with battles, dates and strategies but looks into the people making decisions and the input they received from the scientific community. This book shows how the field of operations research grew during this period due to men like Blackett, Gordon, Williams, etc. It discusses the power-play between ...more
Fiona Hodgkin
Apr 18, 2013 Fiona Hodgkin rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I bought the hardcover edition of 'Blackett's War' on impulse at the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore. While the main title suggests that the British physicist Patrick Blackett (who won the Nobel Prize in physics) is the main character, Blackett actually is only one of the many scientific characters in this book. (I'm suspect the publisher picked a title that it thought would be more marketable than, say, the more accurate: 'Operational Research in Anti-Submarine Warfare in the Battle of the North Atla ...more
Mar 22, 2016 Bill rated it really liked it
A fascinating glimpse into the men and methods behind the winning of the Battle of the Atlantic during WWII. The author also covers details of the air war and other theaters of operation during the WWII and the interaction between leaders, scientists and the military.
Many people are familiar with the work of Alan Turing and others involved in the efforts to break the Enigma and other codes as well as the Manhattan Project but this book covers the less well known arena of operational research and
Casey Mahon
Dec 26, 2016 Casey Mahon rated it really liked it
Just re-read this book, wanted a bit more insight after diving into a few other WWII science and management history books. Not really a history of the analysis itself, but rather the various civilian experts who undertook the work. Very good perspective on the bureaucratic struggles between the various services and personalities. Especially interesting to compare this work with ones about the analysis done supporting the Strategic Bombing campaign; funny that even now the debate continues on the ...more
Jul 29, 2016 Iain rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical-wwii
A well written account of the impact a group of scientists and like minded professionals had on military operations in WWII. The author ranges far-and-wide at times but keeps the account interesting. Action focuses on the Battle for the Atlantic in WWII but includes discussion of WWI at sea as well as the strategic bombing war in WWII.

Readers interested in the Battle for the Atlantic, naval ASW, code breaking/intelligence, and sciences application to "real world" problems should consider this bo
Dec 17, 2013 Harry rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I chose an engineering discipline that had little use for "operations research". I remember it was an integral part of the Industrial Engineering department at the University of Florida during my undergraduate days in the late '60's. It's my understanding that it has morphed into several different disciplines since then and may have lost much of its luster. This book kept me interested throughout. My only complaint is that I wish the author could have provided more details, the actual mechanics ...more
Jun 26, 2013 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb insight into how prepared the German navy was for U-Boat wolf packs and strategies to throttle England. However, with Churchill's boot on the bottom of "old navy" thinking, a small cluster of math and science whizz quickly ran stats to radically alter that strategy. Of course, the same resistance held US anti-sub efforts until Churchill thrust their success on reluctant Americans, who with Brits and Canadians, blocked then decimated the U-Boat fleet, it's best captains one by one sunk.
Aug 15, 2014 Dennis rated it really liked it
Although the writing style was a bit dry, the material was so fascinating and well researched that I kept reading. I didn't really know what the title meant about bringing "science to the art of warfare" but the book laid out the clear and, in some cases, amazing examples of how that happened. The book is actually about a lot more than just the war against the Nazi U-Boats so give this one a try. I think you'll be fascinated.
Mike DiFilippo
Jul 01, 2016 Mike DiFilippo rated it really liked it
A finely researched and smoothly written account of the scientists who were pivotal in Britain's and the US' victory in World War II. Physicists, chemists, and many others provided the discipline of the scientific method to hunting U-Boats, increasing air war effectiveness and even reducing lines in chow lines. And the Nazis' provided many of the scientists with their Jewish persecutions. Most have heard of the "Blechley Park" code breakers but they were just part of the story.
Jul 24, 2013 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-2, history
The title is a good summarization of the book. The author looks at specifically those scientists of all specializations who helped develop the code machines, analyzed data so that significant statistics became apparent, etc. As the author pointed out, what worked in wartime, was not easily translated into peacetime development, although the concepts are not part of the modern mindset. It is always good to remember those who made our world possible. Not a bad read.
Oct 31, 2013 Ross rated it liked it
Interesting account of the contributions to the WWII war effort from scientists who applied the tools of scientific analysis to improve the effectiveness of military operations. The title of the book is a misnomer, however, since Professor Blackett was only a very small part of the effort. The book is quite technical and will probably only interest those with a substantial interest in science or the so-called "Battle of the Atlantic" which most of the book is about.
Feb 27, 2013 Kevin rated it it was amazing
Fascinating and never-boring history of how scintists -- mostly very famous people in England -- worked on military problems and helped win WWII. Invented "operations research". What is the best size of a convoy to avoid submarines? When you find them, are boats or planes better to kill them? Much real historical drama pitting Allies against German Navy, inventing tactics and changing tides of war.
Aug 31, 2013 Alexmacensky rated it really liked it
An interesting examination of the of the application scientific knowledge/advances in mid-war. Another account of the two-edged sword that was Winston Churchill and his 'enthusiasms'. Also of interest were the civilian-military conflicts within the Imperial war machine and how the same battles had to be refought after American entry into the Atlantic campaign in 1942.
Dec 18, 2013 Joe rated it really liked it
Scientists helped the Allies win the war with technology and hardware but also with the use of probability theory and other, more squishy topics that were nonetheless critical. This book covers how Blackett and fellow scientists used probability theory to help turn the tide as they fought uboats in the Atlantic. Great book.
Aug 09, 2013 Chad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Examined the role of operations research in World War Two, essentially among the first use of Big Data, but these scientists did it without computers and spreadsheets. Enjoyed the mix of historical information with personal information on the key players. Second book I have read and enjoyed by Stephen Budiansky.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Seizing The Enigma: The Race To Break The German U-boat Codes, 1939-1943
  • The Hopkins Touch: Harry Hopkins and the Forging of the Alliance to Defeat Hitler
  • Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs: The Unknown Story of the Men and Women of World War II's OSS
  • Stalking the Red Bear: The True Story of a U.S. Cold War Submarine's Covert Operations Against the Soviet Union
  • Most Secret War
  • Engineers of Victory: The Making of the War Machine That Defeated the Nazis
  • Roosevelt's Centurions: FDR & the Commanders He Led to Victory in World War II
  • The Blitz: The British Under Attack
  • Snow and Steel: The Battle of the Bulge, 1944-45
  • War Beneath The Sea
  • Islands of Destiny: The Solomons Campaign and the Eclipse of the Rising Sun
  • The First War of Physics: The Secret History of the Atom Bomb, 1939-1949
  • Churchill's Wizards: The British Genius For Deception 1914–1945
  • Operation Fortitude
  • The Shetland Bus: A WWII Epic of Escape, Survival and Adventure
  • Bomber Command
  • Big Red: Three Months on Board a Trident Nuclear Submarine
  • The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis
Historian and journalist STEPHEN BUDIANSKY is the author of twelve books about military history, science, and nature.

His latest book is THE BLOODY SHIRT: TERROR AFTER APPOMATTOX, which chronicles the struggles of five courageous men in the post-Civil War South as they battled a rising tide of terrorist violence aimed at usurping the newly won rights of the freedmen.
More about Stephen Budiansky...

Share This Book