An unflinching examination of the moral and professional dilemmas faced by physicians who took part in the Manhattan Project.
After his father died, James L. Nolan, Jr., took possession of a box of private family materials. To his surprise, the small secret archive contained a treasure trove of information about his grandfather’s role as a doctor in the Manhattan Project. Dr. Nolan, it turned out, had been a significant figure. A talented ob-gyn radiologist, he cared for the scientists on the project, organized safety and evacuation plans for the Trinity test at Alamogordo, escorted the “Little Boy” bomb from Los Alamos to the Pacific Islands, and was one of the first Americans to enter the irradiated ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Participation on the project challenged Dr. Nolan’s instincts as a healer. He and his medical colleagues were often conflicted, torn between their duty and desire to win the war and their oaths to protect life. Atomic Doctors follows these physicians as they sought to maximize the health and safety of those exposed to nuclear radiation, all the while serving leaders determined to minimize delays and maintain secrecy. Called upon both to guard against the harmful effects of radiation and to downplay its hazards, doctors struggled with the ethics of ending the deadliest of all wars using the most lethal of all weapons. Their work became a very human drama of ideals, co-optation, and complicity.
A vital and vivid account of a largely unknown chapter in atomic history, Atomic Doctors is a profound meditation on the moral dilemmas that ordinary people face in extraordinary times.
In The Contours of America's Cold War, Matthew Farish explores new ways of conceptualizing space as part of post-World War II American militarism. He demonstrates how the social sciences were militarized in the early Cold War period, producing spatial knowledge that was of immediate use to the state as it sought to expand its reach across the globe.
Geographic knowledge generated for the Cold War was a form of power, Farish argues, and it was given an urgency in the panels, advisory boards, and study groups established to address the challenges of an atomic world. He investigates how the scales of the city, the continent, the region, the globe, and, by extension, outer space, were brought together as strategic spaces, categories that provided a cartographic orientation for the Cold War and influenced military deployments, diplomacy, espionage, and finance.
Farish analyzes the surprising range of knowledge production involved in the project of claiming and classifying American space. Backed by military and intelligence funding, physicists and policy makers, soldiers and social scientists came together to study and shape the United States and its place in a divided world.
Ever since Commodore Perry sailed into Uraga Channel, relations between the United States and Japan have been characterized by culture shock. Now a distinguished Japanese historian critically analyzes contemporary thought, public opinion, and behavior in the two countries over the course of the twentieth century, offering a binational perspective on culture shock as it has affected their relations.
In these essays, Sadao Asada examines the historical interaction between these two countries from 1890 to 2006, focusing on naval strategy, transpacific racism, and the atomic bomb controversy. For each topic, he offers a rigorous analysis of both American and Japanese perceptions, showing how cultural relations and the interchange of ideas have been complex—and occasionally destructive.
Culture Shock and Japanese-American Relations contains insightful essays on the influence of Alfred Mahan on the Japanese navy and on American images of Japan during the 1920s. Other essays consider the progressive breakdown of relations between the two countries and the origins of the Pacific War from the viewpoint of the Japanese navy, then tackle the ultimate shock of the atomic bomb and Japan’s surrender, tracing changing perceptions of the decision to use the bomb on both sides of the Pacific over the course of sixty years. In discussing these subjects, Asada draws on Japanese sources largely inaccessible to Western scholars to provide a host of eye-opening insights for non-Japanese readers.
After studying in America for nine years and receiving degrees from both Carleton College and Yale University, Asada returned to Japan to face his own reverse culture shock. His insights raise important questions of why people on opposite sides of the Pacific see things differently and adapt their perceptions to different purposes. This book marks a major effort toward reconstructing and understanding the conflicted course of Japanese-American relations during the first half of the twentieth century.
When President Harry Truman introduced the atomic bomb to the world in 1945, he described it as a God-given harnessing of "the basic power of the universe." Six days later a New York Times editorial framed the dilemma of the new Atomic Age for its readers: "Here the long pilgrimage of man on Earth turns towards darkness or towards light." American nuclear scientists, aware of the dangers their work involved, referred to one of their most critical experiments as "tickling the dragon's tail."
Even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, most Americans may not have been sure what an atomic bomb was or how it worked. But they did sense that it had fundamentally changed the future of the human race. In this book, Robert Jacobs analyzes the early impact of nuclear weapons on American culture and society. He does so by examining a broad range of stories, or "nuclear narratives," that sought to come to grips with the implications of the bomb's unprecedented and almost unimaginable power.
Beginning with what he calls the "primary nuclear narrative," which depicted atomic power as a critical agent of social change that would either destroy the world or transform it for the better, Jacobs explores a variety of common themes and images related to the destructive power of the bomb, the effects of radiation, and ways of surviving nuclear war. He looks at civil defense pamphlets, magazines, novels, and films to recover the stories the U.S. government told its citizens and soldiers as well as those presented in popular culture.
According to Jacobs, this early period of Cold War nuclear culture—from 1945 to the banning of above-ground testing in 1963—was distinctive for two reasons: not only did atmospheric testing make Americans keenly aware of the presence of nuclear weapons in their lives, but radioactive fallout from the tests also made these weapons a serious threat to public health, separate from yet directly linked to the danger of nuclear war.
One Nobel Prize–winning physicist called Edward Teller, “A great man of vast imagination…[one of the] most thoughtful statesmen of science.” Another called him, “A danger to all that is important… It would have been a better world without [him].” That both opinions about Teller were commonly held and equally true is one of the enduring mysteries about the man dubbed “the father of the H-bomb.” In the story of Teller’s life and career, told here in greater depth and detail than ever before, Peter Goodchild unravels the complex web of harsh early experiences, character flaws, and personal and professional frustrations that lay behind the paradox of “the real Dr. Strangelove.”
Goodchild’s biography draws on interviews with more than fifty of Teller’s colleagues and friends. Their voices echo through the book, expressing admiration and contempt, affection and hatred, as we observe Teller’s involvement in every stage of building the atomic bomb, and his subsequent pursuit of causes that drew the world deeper into the Cold War—alienating many of his scientific colleagues even as he provided the intellectual lead for politicians, the military, and presidents as they shaped Western policy. Goodchild interviewed Teller himself at the end of his life, and what emerges from this interview, as well as from Teller’s memoirs and recently unearthed correspondence, is a clearer view of the contradictions and controversies that riddled the man’s life. Most of all, though, this absorbing biography rescues Edward Teller from the caricatures that have served to describe him until now. In their place, Goodchild shows us one of the most powerful scientists of the twentieth century in all his enigmatic humanity.
Between 1951 and 1962 the Atomic Energy Commission triggered some one hundred atmospheric detonations of nuclear weapons at the Nevada Test Site. U.S. military troops who participated in these tests were exposed to high doses of radiation. Among them was a young Marine named Leonard Bird. In Folding Paper Cranes Bird juxtaposes his devastating experience of those atomic exercises with three visits over his lifetime—one in the 1950s before his Nevada assignment, one in 1981, and one in the early 1990s—to the International Park for World Peace in Hiroshima.
Among the monuments to tragedy and hope in Hiroshima’s Peace Park stands a statue of Sadako Sasaki holding a crane in her outstretched arms. Sadako was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on her city; she was diagnosed with leukemia ten years later. According to popular Japanese belief, folding a thousand paper cranes brings good fortune. Sadako spent the last months of her young life folding hundreds of paper cranes. She folded 644 before she died.
As he journeys from the Geiger counters, radioactive dust, and mushroom clouds of the Nevada desert to the bronze and ivory memorials for the dead in Japan, Bird—himself a survivor of radiation-induced cancer—seeks to make peace with his past and with a future shadowed by nuclear proliferation. His paper cranes are the poetry and prose of this haunting memoir.
He called the first atomic bomb “technically sweet,” yet as he watched its brilliant light explode over the New Mexico desert in 1945 in advance of the black horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he also thought of the line from the Hindu epic The Bhagavad Gita: “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director of the Manhattan Project, the single most recognizable face of the atomic bomb, and a man whose name has become almost synonymous with Cold War American nuclear science, was and still is a conflicted, controversial figure who has come to represent an equally ambivalent technology.
The Meanings of J. Robert Oppenheimer examines how he has been represented over the past seven decades in biographies, histories, fiction, comics, photographs, film, television, documentaries, theater, and museums. Lindsey Michael Banco gathers an unprecedented group of cultural texts and seeks to understand the multiple meanings Oppenheimer has held in American popular culture since 1945. He traces the ways these representations of Oppenheimer have influenced public understanding of the atomic bomb, technology, physics, the figure of the scientist, the role of science in war, and even what it means to pursue knowledge of the world around us. Questioning and unpacking both how and why Oppenheimer is depicted as he is across time and genre, this book is broad in scope, profound in detail, and offers unique insights into the rise of nuclear culture and how we think about the relationship between history, imagination, science, and nuclear weapons today.
In the spring of 1945 the Allies arrested the physicists they believed had worked on the German nuclear programme. Interned in an English country house owned by MI6, their conversations were secretly recorded. Operation Epsilon sought to determine how close Nazi Germany had come to building an atomic bomb. It was in this quiet setting – Farm Hall, near Cambridge – that the interned physicists first heard of the attack on Hiroshima. Aside from changing the course of history, that night was also one of great shock and personal defeat for the physicists – they were under the assumption that they alone had discovered nuclear fission. This is the story of Nazi Germany’s hunt for a nuclear bomb. It is a tale of the genius and guilt of lauded, respected scientists.
On the fiftieth anniversary of Hiroshima, Nobel-winning physicist Hans Bethe called on his fellow scientists to stop working on weapons of mass destruction. What drove Bethe, the head of Theoretical Physics at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, to renounce the weaponry he had once worked so tirelessly to create? That is one of the questions answered by Nuclear Forces, a riveting biography of Bethe’s early life and development as both a scientist and a man of principle.
As Silvan Schweber follows Bethe from his childhood in Germany, to laboratories in Italy and England, and on to Cornell University, he shows how these differing environments were reflected in the kind of physics Bethe produced. Many of the young quantum physicists in the 1930s, including Bethe, had Jewish roots, and Schweber considers how Liberal Judaism in Germany helps explain their remarkable contributions. A portrait emerges of a man whose strategy for staying on top of a deeply hierarchical field was to tackle only those problems he knew he could solve.
Bethe’s emotional maturation was shaped by his father and by two women of Jewish background: his overly possessive mother and his wife, who would later serve as an ethical touchstone during the turbulent years he spent designing nuclear bombs. Situating Bethe in the context of the various communities where he worked, Schweber provides a full picture of prewar developments in physics that changed the modern world, and of a scientist shaped by the unprecedented moral dilemmas those developments in turn created.
John Canaday analyzes a variety of texts produced by physicists before, during, and after the Second World War, including Niels Bohr’s "The Quantum Postulate"; the Blegdamsvej Faust, a parody of Goethe’s Faust that cast physicists as its principle characters; The Los Alamos Primer, the technical lectures used for training at Los Alamos; scientists’ descriptions of their work and of the Trinity test; and Leo Szilard’s post-war novella, The Voice of the Dolphins.
When he discovers that his father worked on missiles for a defense contractor, Jeff Porter is inspired to revisit America’s atomic past and our fallen heroes, in particular J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb. The result, Oppenheimer Is Watching Me, takes readers back to the cold war, when men in lab coats toyed with the properties of matter and fears of national security troubled our sleep. With an eye for strange symmetries, Porter traces how one panicky moment shaped the lives of a generation.
At a time when the Manhattan Project was synonymous with large-scale science, physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904–67) represented the new sociocultural power of the American intellectual. Catapulted to fame as director of the Los Alamos atomic weapons laboratory, Oppenheimer occupied a key position in the compact between science and the state that developed out of World War II. By tracing the making—and unmaking—of Oppenheimer’s wartime and postwar scientific identity, Charles Thorpe illustrates the struggles over the role of the scientist in relation to nuclear weapons, the state, and culture.
A stylish intellectual biography, Oppenheimer maps out changes in the roles of scientists and intellectuals in twentieth-century America, ultimately revealing transformations in Oppenheimer’s persona that coincided with changing attitudes toward science in society.
“This is an outstandingly well-researched book, a pleasure to read and distinguished by the high quality of its observations and judgments. It will be of special interest to scholars of modern history, but non-specialist readers will enjoy the clarity that Thorpe brings to common misunderstandings about his subject.”—Graham Farmelo, Times Higher Education Supplement
“A fascinating new perspective. . . . Thorpe’s book provides the best perspective yet for understanding Oppenheimer’s Los Alamos years, which were critical, after all, not only to his life but, for better or worse, the history of mankind.”—Catherine Westfall, Nature
What was life like for the scientists working at Los Alamos? Thomas McMahon imagines this life through the wide eyes of young Tim MacLaurin, the thirteen-year-old son of an MIT physicist who, inspired by a young woman named Maryann, worked on the project. Filled with the sensuous excitement of scientific discovery and the outrageous behavior of people pushed beyond their limits, Principles of American Nuclear Chemistry is a beautifully written coming-of-age story that explores the mysterious connections between love and work, inspiration and history.
Truman and the Hiroshima Cult
Robert P. Newman Michigan State University Press, 1995 Library of Congress D767.25.N3N48 1995 | Dewey Decimal 940.5425
The United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 to end World War II as quickly and with as few casualties as possible. That is the compelling and elegantly simple argument Newman puts forward in his new study of World War II's end, Truman and the Hiroshima Cult. According to Newman: (1) The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey conclusions that Japan was ready to surrender without "the Bomb" are fraudulent; (2) America’s "unconditional surrender" doctrine did not significantly prolong the war; and (3) President Harry S. Truman’s decision to use atomic weapons on Japanese cities was not a "racist act," nor was it a calculated political maneuver to threaten Joseph Stalin’s Eastern hegemony. Simply stated, Newman argues that Truman made a sensible military decision. As commander in chief, he was concerned with ending a devastating and costly war as quickly as possible and with saving millions of lives.
Yet, Newman goes further in his discussion, seeking the reasons why so much hostility has been generated by what happened in the skies over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August, 1945. The source of discontent, he concludes, is a "cult" that has grown up in the United States since the 1960s. It was weaned on the disillusionment spawned by concerns about a military industrial complex, American duplicity and failure in the Vietnam War, and a mistrust of government following Watergate. The cult has a shrine, a holy day, a distinctive rhetoric of victimization, various items of scripture, and, in Japan, support from a powerful Marxist constituency. "As with other cults, it is ahistorical," Newman declares. "Its devotees elevate fugitive and unrepresentative events to cosmic status. And most of all, they believe." Newman’s analysis goes to the heart of the process by which scholars interpret historical events and raises disturbing issues about the way historians select and distort evidence about the past to suit special political agendas.
The highly acclaimed Weapons for Victory originally appeared in 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II. Now, in this paperback edition, Robert James Maddox provides a new introduction about the ongoing controversy related to the decision to bomb Hiroshima.