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The Making of the Atomic Bomb

4.31  ·  Rating Details ·  12,626 Ratings  ·  619 Reviews
Rhodes tells, for the first time, in rich human, political and scientific detail, the complete story of how the bomb was developed, from the turn-of-the-century discovery of the vast energy locked inside the atom to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan. 128 photos.
Library Binding
Published June 26th 2008 by Paw Prints 2008-06-26 (first published 1986)
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Feb 20, 2016 Jason rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-stars
This is the most comprehensive non-fiction book you will NEVER read. What, why? Because it takes 30 hours to complete!! Look, I’m no speed reader, but neither am I a dullard. This book is so chock-full of compounding facts, so dense, that interpreting it takes devastating attention. This book must be paced like a thoroughbred. There’s not a picayune fact in 886 pages—and these pages are 7 x 9, small-bordered, 10 font, single-spaced, with substantial primary source quotation in 8 font. 60 pages o ...more
May 17, 2016 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aere-perennius, 2016
“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”
― Oppenheimer's translation from Bhagavad-Gita in Richard Rhodes, Making of the Atomic Bomb


“Now we are all sons of bitches.”
― Richard Bainbridge, quoted in Richard Rhodes, Making of the Atomic Bomb

I use the world masterpiece with a certain reservation. It is overused. Abused even. It is a word that can easily lose its power if diffused into too many works by too many authors. However, I can say unabashedly that this book, this history, is a maste
Jul 17, 2007 Clinton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
If you want to impress women, read French poetry.

If you want to impress my dad, read something with a title like A Hero Will Rise: A World War II POW's Introspection About the War in the Pacific, the Bataan Death March, General McArthur, Iwo Jima, and P-38s. Oh, and John Wayne.

If you want to impress a geeky engineer, read The Making of the Atomic Bomb. I can't imagine a more complete and authoritative work about one of mankind's most important inventions. When people speak of great human accompl
Nov 10, 2008 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Awesome people
Shelves: world-war-ii, science
The Austrian physicist Eugene Wigner emigrated to the United States and eventually found a teaching job at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He met a young woman, Amelia Frank, and the two were soon married. Then she got ill. As told to Richard Rhodes, author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Wigner recalled:

I tried to conceal it from her that she had cancer and that there was no hope for her surviving. She was in a hospital in Madison and then she went to see her parents and I went with her
Andrej Karpathy
Dec 13, 2016 Andrej Karpathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For thousands of years man's capacity to destroy was limited to spears, arrows and fire. 120 years ago we learned to release chemical energy (e.g. TNT), and 70 years ago we learned to be 100 million times+ more efficient by harnessing the nuclear strong force energy with atomic weapons, first through fission and then fusion. We've also miniaturized these brilliant inventions and learned to mount them on ICBMs traveling at Mach 20. Unfortunately, we live in a universe where the laws of physics fe ...more
The grand, encyclopedic, epic story of the atomic bomb program. Starts from WWI and continues until after the end of WWII. Includes short biographies of all of the major figures of the program, as well as a firm outline of the political situation which surrounded them. Harrowing detail of when the bomb itself was dropped, and what the creators thought during the while ordeal. Brilliant blend of history and science.
This was the textbook for my freshman seminar at college. The class was titled 'The Manhattan Project: Studies in Science and Lessons for Mankind' and while it was not what I expected going in, it was generally pretty good; I liked my professor and my classmates and we had good discussions, so it was a positive experience. I was not, however, crazy about this as a textbook, at least for the class: Rhodes focuses a lot on the technical aspects of the bomb and only deals with the tremendous ethica ...more
Nov 14, 2007 Ralph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
I put this book on my site, even though I read it over 20 years ago, because it had a great influence on me. I consider it one of the best history books I've ever read. Each chapter ends with a compelling paragraph that stunned me; almost like the last scene in an old serial movie. The books treats topics like, the rise of the Jewish scientists, the rise of modern warfare, the rise of the U.S. generals, the birth of modern nuclear physics, etc. It ends with the making of the bomb, not the war an ...more
Jan 31, 2016 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't believe there are any histories of the Manhattan project that compare to that of Rhodes. It has been the definitive story of the building of the bomb for twenty-five years and is likely to remain so -- most of the engineers and scientists involved are no longer available for interview.

The book lives up to its impressive reputation. It is a detailed and eloquent account—of the early years of almost incredible scientific productivity, of the machinations of committees that nearly killed th
Brad Lyerla
May 05, 2015 Brad Lyerla rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB is Richard Rhodes’ internationally acclaimed tour de force of science writing. It is an epic history of the seven decades that saw Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and dozens of others lay the groundwork for the science that we now call Quantum Physics. It won several awards including the Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. I love non-fiction and I cannot think of another work of non-fiction that ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
Rereading this classic on the atomic bomb written in the 1980s. It covers the science behind and politics and characters that lead to building and use of the atomic bomb in 1945. It picks up the thread at the turn of the twentieth century and developments in the field of physics and chemistry that lead to the idea of releasing the power locked in the nucleus of an atom. It also traces the politics of Europe throughout the early twentieth century such as the first world war and the spread on fas ...more
Apr 05, 2015 Anshuman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book starts off in London on a dull September morning in 1933 with Leo Szilard contemplating the shape of things to come. From this point on, the book is a history book. It is a nuclear physics textbook. It is a slow burning mystery. It is a World War II spy thriller. The narrative jumps between continents and historical figures with such finesse that it is quite easy to get lost within its pages and forget that it deals with the greatest issue of all : the annihilation of all mankind. It is ...more
G.d. Brennan
Aug 11, 2012 G.d. Brennan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this book is a touch overrated.

Having said that, I couldn't put it down.

"The Making of the Atomic Bomb" is incredibly well-researched; it's thought-provoking and deep, yet lively and literary. And make no mistake, it is well worth your while; its greatest sections and passages are as absorbing and exciting as anything I've ever read. (As a precocious 4th grader prone to fleeing the world by burying my nose in books, I'd read eagerly about the incredible feats of engineering and physics t
Antonio Rojas
Sep 28, 2016 Antonio Rojas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Monumental and Breathtaking!
Is a breathtaking journey through the history of nuclear physics and the development of Atomic Theory. It is a masterpiece where Mr. Rhodes regales us with his gift for presenting difficult and intricate concepts in a very logical, insightful, colorful, and above all entertaining fashion.
Loosely speaking, the first part of the book covers the key steps that carved the foundations of atomic theory: we get to witness J.J. Thompson discovering the electron; Ernest Ruther
Jul 27, 2011 Ross rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an exhaustive history of the bombs development., some 900 pages. The first half deals with the fundamental physics that makes nuclear weapons possible. The remainder deals with the actual development.
My previous understanding of the bomb history stemmed from a movie some 20 years ago. In this film Albert Einstein perceives the potential for the bomb based on his famous equation
E=MC squared. He quickly contacts President Roosevelt and FDR assigns a General Groves to develop the bomb ASAP
This has the reputation of being the book to read about the Manhattan Project, and having just finished it, I can't imagine one being better. Yes, it is very long. Yes, the narrative can feel a bit jumpy, especially in the first half. There are a lot of names being used, some of which never re-appear, and a lot of seemingly minor scientific experiments detailed exhaustively. And yes, Rhodes dedicates many pages to discussions that do not feel very relevant in 2013, but were very much so when it ...more
Feb 20, 2013 Kirsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is not light reading and if you are not at all interested in the history of science, much of it may be difficult. But don't get me wrong, it is a fascinating history of the bomb, the people and the circumstances that created it. Rhodes provides much detail and depth into multiple figures, politics, and related scientific projects.

This book is important reading because it is important to recognize the horror and the brilliance of what humankind is capable of, the responsibility that comes w
Adam Robinson
Jul 07, 2016 Adam Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is a reason that books are given the Pulitzer Prize. Rhodes' book about the discovery of the atom and the development of the atomic bomb is a tour de force. It stands as one of the best history books I have ever read. Thorough, wide ranging, and engrossing. I am amazed at the intelligence of scientists working without the benefit of computers. I am horrified by what we can inflict upon one another in war. This is my second time through this book and it is still very much a 5 star read.
Ben Zuehlke
Oct 20, 2016 Ben Zuehlke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerful book. I came to this book for the science angle more than for the political side of things, but found both fascinating. Even at 900 pages it felt short. Worth a read if you have any interest in science or history.
A thick and dense book. Very well written and I learned so much more about the science of the bomb, WWII, the politics and the decision to use the bomb. Highly recommended.
Jun 27, 2016 Bob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an extraordinary work, one of the finest nonfiction books I've ever read. Its breadth and depth of coverage are incredible. It is engagingly written, truly a book hard to put down. It is full of wonderful anecdotes and photographs.

The book is a chronological account of the science, engineering, and politics that created the atomic bomb. It is basically in four parts: physics from around 1880 to 1938, physics from 1939 to 1943, engineering and politics from 1941 to 1945, and the postwar
Dec 06, 2008 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history-loving masochists
Browse the many reviews of Bomb and you will find many different variants on a laudatory theme. If you read works of historical nonfiction for any of the reasons this book has rightly earned praise – its thoroughness, attention to detail, exhaustive research, fanatical devotion to accuracy, and a coherent, compassionate, and moral reconstruction of the times, talents, motivations, science, and engineering that brought the first atomic weapons into existence, alongside a taste of the implications ...more
Aishwarya Saxena
Whew. That was a big book. Took me three months to finish because of the copious amounts of notes I took. I’ve never reviewed non-fiction before and I don’t know what made me decide to start with a Pulitzer Prize winner but here goes.

The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes is a major work of historical synthesis that brings to life the men and machines that gave us the nuclear era. Rich in drama and suspense, the book also has remarkable breadth and depth, revealing new connections, insi
Jan 23, 2011 Nate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is quite a book: part science text, part philosophy text, part biography, part literature. It provides a comprehensive technical review of the science behind the bomb, as well as an equally thorough dissection of the scientists, politicians and military men who bring the bomb to life, but the real genius is in the moral and philosophical undercurrent that weaves throughout. It would have been very easy to leave that out, and inclusion is what makes this a Pulitzer winner, a National Book Aw ...more
Jan 18, 2011 Dmitry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
407 pages into the book (out of 700-some): this is surely a fascinating read, and on the plus side the handling of the physics is much more in-depth than one would expect from a basically historical narrative aimed at a wide audience. There are, however, several points that make the reading not as enjoyable as it would be otherwise:
- Small historical errors and inconsistencies. The Reichstag was not burned by the SA (but rather by a psychically unstable Dutch communist Marinus Vanderlubbe). Nevi
Aug 24, 2012 Jlawrence rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent history not just of the making of the atomic bomb, but of twin tales of early 20th-century discoveries in physics and simultaneous evolution of total war between nation states that led to its development. Rhodes does a great job of delving into the pyschology of the scientists and relevant social currents as well as the technical aspects of the bomb's creations - though sometimes the details of the latter are followed so closely as to become a bit mind-numbing.

He does a good job of add
Michael Scott
+++ what a truly amazing book!
+++ the comprehensive survey of over a hundred years of scientific progress is pure delight (250 pages of fast-paced discovery)
++ the coverage of a complex, time- and space-distributed, engineering project, which culminated in the routine production of nuclear weapons
++/- the characterization of so many important scientists, politicians, and army officers (perhaps less the Freudian analysis)
++ the excellent analysis of scientific, political, and military ev
Abhilesh Dhawanjewar
A single sentence to summarise this book - 'It is a masterpiece'.

Richard Rhodes takes us back to the 20th Century when the world is gripped in the midst of the Second World War. In a spectacular, comprehensive account of the making of the atomic bomb that put an end to the Second World War, the author provides a perfect balance of the scientific, technical, political and ethical aspects of the journey that led to Nagasaki and Hiroshima being decimated by 'Fat Man' and 'Little Boy'. RR begins wi
May 22, 2012 Shawn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one took some time to chunk through (789 large, fairly small-print pages), but I found it fascinating to read about the history and the people involved with the atomic bomb. It is a mix of history and biography, but not a biography of a single person. Rather it gives comprehensive insights into the lives of many scientists and physicists involved in the bomb while walking through the historical settings and events at the same time. Some of the stories from WWII were things I had never heard ...more
Jan 18, 2015 MillánXVII rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un libro que habla sobre cómo llegó a fabricarse la primera bomba atómica y que empieza con la vida de los científicos que descubrieron las partículas subatómicas es, necesariamente, ambicioso. Si además tiene más de 1000 páginas tiene que ser completo.
Este lo es.
Naturalmente, no es un libro para todo el mundo. Si no te interesa ninguno de los temas principales del libro (historia de la ciencia, física, historia militar, historia contemporánea) difícilmente vas a poder digerir lo que se te viene
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NonFiction Pulitzers: The Making of the Atomic Bomb: Buddy Read 2016 48 18 Mar 21, 2016 07:23PM  
hay 2 47 Jan 31, 2013 10:23AM  
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Richard Lee Rhodes is an American journalist, historian, and author of both fiction and non-fiction (which he prefers to call "verity"), including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb (1986), and most recently, Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race (2007). He has been awarded grants from the Ford Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation a ...more
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“Before it is science and career, before it is livelihood, before even it is family or love, freedom is sound sleep and safety to notice the play of morning sun.” 27 likes
“For the scientist, at exactly the moment of discovery—that most unstable existential moment—the external world, nature itself, deeply confirms his innermost fantastic convictions. Anchored abruptly in the world, Leviathan gasping on his hook, he is saved from extreme mental disorder by the most profound affirmation of the real.” 5 likes
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