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The Making of the Atomic Bomb

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  15,091 ratings  ·  808 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)
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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I'm a poor humble former liberal arts major, who never had anything more than high school chemistry and physics, and I had no problem with…moreI'm a poor humble former liberal arts major, who never had anything more than high school chemistry and physics, and I had no problem with understanding this book. (less)

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4.34  · 
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 ·  15,091 ratings  ·  808 reviews

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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: 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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 the
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
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
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
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.
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: 2018, war, history
"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
Jul 13, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Santino Maguire
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. The first act is a fantastic set of tableaus about the physicists and progression of science necessary to discover the capabilities of the atom. The second act is somewhat dry, regarding mostly the politicking necessary to have made the bomb happen, but there is some decent engineering spliced in here and there. The third is about the war effort, the Trinity test, and the eventual dropping of the bomb. The last chapter is horrifying and not something I'd describe as the feel-good r ...more
Robert Cox
Jul 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fivahs
"The deep things in science are not found because they are useful, they are found because it was possible to find them" -Oppenheimer

In a word... comprehensive. Like, uber. Not just an exhaustive regarding the scientific aspects, but the social, political and wartime factors that contributed and led up to the creation of the most destructive weapon ever conceived. Even ample knowledge of the personal lives of the scientists involved is conveyed.

There is so much about the development of the bomb
Stephen Clare
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An astonishing book, dense as lead and explosive as plutonium. It's 800+ pages of tiny text, but there's not a superfluous sentence to be found. Just a staggering amount of information. And no wonder - this book is a textbook of physics in the first half of the 20th century, a case study of the relationship between science and war (and scientists and soldiers), and a history of the rising tolerability of mass civilian slaughter, combined with multiple biographies of some of history's most charac ...more
Josh Friedlander
An epic topic, perhaps the epic topic, matched by a book epic in scope and detail. Rhodes starts off at the beginning of 20th century understanding of the atom, going into intricate detail about the lives of Bohr, Rutherford, Szilard, et al. He seems equally happy talking about Kierkegaard's Either/Or philosophy, the Pacific Theatre, or the intricacies of isolating Uranium-235. There's a lot of science in this book - I googled a lot but still felt like I missed enough to justify a second reading ...more
Aaron Million
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
Richard Rhodes' monumental undertaking here is both admirable and daunting at the same time. As one might expect, the story of the development of the atomic bomb, and of atomic power in general, does not occur overnight and does not involved just a few individuals. It evolves over decades of often pain-staking work done by scientists who span a wide range of nationalities, specialties, opinions, and motivations. As such, a thorough job requires a lot of work – both for Rhodes and for the reader. ...more
Antonio Rojas
May 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
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NonFiction Pulitzers: The Making of the Atomic Bomb: Buddy Read 2016 48 22 Mar 21, 2016 07:23PM  
hay 2 51 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
“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.” 8 likes
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