Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” as Want to Read:
The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Making of the Atomic Bomb

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  16,515 ratings  ·  931 reviews
Here for the first time, in rich, human, political, and scientific detail, is 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.

Few great discoveries have evolved so swiftly -- or have been so misunderstood. From the theoretical discussions of nuclea
Paperback, 886 pages
Published August 1st 1995 by Simon & Schuster (first published September 18th 1986)
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 The Making of the Atomic Bomb, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Michel Boto It delves more into the history and process of the discoveries leading up to the bomb than the science. You do not need to draw Feynman diagrams on th…moreIt delves more into the history and process of the discoveries leading up to the bomb than the science. You do not need to draw Feynman diagrams on the dust jacket just to follow the plot.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.36  · 
Rating details
 ·  16,515 ratings  ·  931 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Making of the Atomic Bomb
Nov 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was with some trepidation that I started to read this book. It is such a lengthy book, and I didn't anticipate enjoying it very much. I thought that it would be emphasize mundane details about the Manhattan Project. But, I was happily surprised by the scope of the book. The Manhattan Project actually takes up less than a third of its pages.

The first third of the book is about the discovery of modern physics, and the lives of scientists who played a major part in the discovery. The book examin
Nov 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Awesome people
Shelves: science, world-war-ii
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
Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, aere-perennius
“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 rated it it was amazing
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
Laura Noggle
A calamity of coincidences.

This book is heavy, laden with intricate detail and the minutiae that had to coalesce to create, and detonate the first atomic bombs.

It took me 3 months to read this weighty tome, the last chapter was especially nauseating.

It’s difficult to give a book like this on the mass murder of thousands of civilians a five star rating, but Rhodes did an impeccable job tying together all the threads that wove this dark tapestry in world history. From the men who discovered, and
Andrej Karpathy
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Making of the Atomic Bomb, Pulitzer Prize winner in 1988, was a well-researched and comprehensive history exploring the making of the atomic bomb, beginning with World War I, the genesis of the Manhattan Project and continuing through the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, bringing an end to World War II. Rhodes divides the book into three parts; the first section exploring the history of nuclear physics from the discovery of radioactivity at the end of the nineteenth century. It also explores t ...more
Like most of you, I've heard and mulled over the arguments about whether America should or shouldn't have dropped the atomic bombs on Japan to hasten the end of World War II. Historians, scholars, philosophers, armchair know-it-alls, etc., have all had a go at it. It's not so easy a question to answer definitively, despite what would seem to be an open-and-shut case on the side of the moral and right thing to do.

Consider you were a soldier, or the family of a soldier wondering if, at that moment
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Incredibly thorough. This book features everything, the science, history of every single discovery and person related to nuclear physics, the politics, the Manhattan project, the dropping of the bomb, testimonies of the people it was dropped on (I compliment the author for adding this in, it makes sure to make the point that this is not just a bigger bomb), and polices after the A-bomb was dropped to the first test of the H-bomb. I have to say this book tested my capacity for retaining so much i ...more
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
Science history at this level of breadth and depth does more than just add to the details; it changes your fundamental understanding of science and history. Most science history tends to give the impression that science advances with giant leaps of inspiration by rare geniuses, but this book shows that science is a cumulative accretion of countless incremental insights. This book illustrates other profundities of science history, for example, that the role of the experimentalists, like Rutherfor ...more
Peter (Pete) 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
Possibly the best scientific book for layman ever written.
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.
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A great story of science, war, history, politics, a story that uniquely blends humanity’s greatest talents with its gravest errors. A triumphant scientific and industrial effort of the greatest minds racing to invent the way of humankind’s self-destruction.

As soon as nuclear fission was discovered - only in December of 1938 - nuclear scientists all started frantic research projects, discovering a vast source of energy, new elements, and more potent radioactive sources. With this, the thought of
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it
OK EVERYONE. The moment we've all been waiting for. I have FINISHED this book.
Considering how much I complained about this book, you're probably surprised I gave it 3 stars. So let me break it down:
First off, I would have never EVER read this entire book without it being assigned reading for a class. So I don't think that justifies a poor rating. But I seriously cannot imagine reading this book for pleasure. It is SO dense, complex, detailed, and LONG. Also, had it not been for explanations in c

wiki sourced - Leó Szilárd (Hungarian: Szilárd Leó, February 11, 1898 – May 30, 1964 German: Spitz, Leo until age 2) was an Austro-Hungarian physicist who conceived the nuclear chain reaction in 1933, patented the idea of a nuclear reactor with Enrico Fermi, and in late 1939 wrote the letter for Albert Einstein's signature that resulted in the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb.

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck (April 23, 1858 – October 4, 1947) was a German physicist who is regarded as th
Aug 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I feel both guilty and generous for giving the book 3 stars, becasue it is a full and complete authoritative, did I say complete- in every single detail- history of the making of Atomic bomb and therein lies the rub.

Its too complete. The lead up is never ending. Its every detail of 50 years of geopolitical developments in America, Europe and USSR, every discovery (and many failed theories) in applied and theoretical physics post 1900, by whom, when, and how other people felt about it, every deta
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by American journalist and historian Richard Rhodes, is a stunning achievement that takes us from early 20th century discoveries to the development of modern physics, and from there to the Manhattan Project and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not surprisingly, the book won a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, and a National Book Critics Circle Award. It has been praised both by historians and the former Manhattan Project scientists, which is unde ...more
I read till part 2, chapter 10, approximately 30% of almost 900 pages. It's interesting but very detailed. My nuclear physics knowledge is basic university level from my days of studying engineering. This, however was beyond me and my patience. Plus I want to read for fun, this was turning more into a project.
Brad Lyerla
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Susan O
Long and detailed, but very readable. It is filled with science, but also information about the people involved in the development of the atomic bomb. Some names may be familiar - Oppenheimer, Bohr, Lawrence, and Einstein - but others are included as well - including Teller, Wigner, Szilard, and Conant. I was also very glad to see Lise Meitner given her due, one of the very few women involved in the discovery.

The book progresses chronologically from the early days of quantum theory through the
Feb 23, 2015 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
Antonio Nunez
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are not many books I would recommend more whole-heartedly. Just read it.

This is the story of science, industry, and politics, and how humanity went from wondering about structure of the atom in 1910 to dropping exploding balls of plutonium over Japan in 1945.

We begin with bunch of European physicists who in the 1920s and 30s, discover the nature of the atom: Rutherford in England discovering the nucleus in 1911, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle in 1926, the Bohr model, Chadw
G.d. Brennan
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Michael Burnam-Fink
Sep 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, history, 2018
"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Los Alamos lab, chief designer of the atomic bomb, and a polymath with mystic and leftist inclinations, had the perfect quote for the first artificial dawn of an atomic explosion. There are many ways in which we die: disease, age, accident, violence. And many ways in which we might all die; suddenly in the wake of some cosmological catastrophe or slowly starving on a dying planet. With the atom bomb, it was now
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
NonFiction Pulitzers: The Making of the Atomic Bomb: Buddy Read 2016 48 24 Mar 22, 2016 03:23PM  
hay 2 53 Feb 01, 2013 07:23AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
  • The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy
  • Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety
  • D-Day, June 6, 1944: The Battle for the Normandy Beaches
  • The Feynman Lectures on Physics
  • Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed
  • The Legend of Dell Briggers
  • The World Set Free
  • One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War
  • Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II
  • Churchill: A Life
  • Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster
  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
  • The Rising Sun: The Decline & Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-45
  • Atomic Awakening: A New Look at the History and Future of Nuclear Power
  • The Art of Electronics
  • The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000
  • Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control From Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond
See similar books…
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

News & Interviews

There are many ways to take action against racism. Reading in order to learn more about oppression and how to oppose it is just one of those ways...
62 likes · 13 comments
“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.” 29 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.” 12 likes
More quotes…