Book Review: The First War of Physics by Jim Baggott (Three Stars)


Book Review: The First War of Physics: The Secret History of the Atom Bomb, 1939-1949 by Jim Baggott

(Three Stars)

“This book is my attempt to answer these and many other questions through a popular, accessible account of the race to build the first atomic bombs, centred on the individual stories of the physicists directly involved.”

A worthy goal, but Baggott failed to deliver. Great material, poor presentation. Didn’t know England had a nuclear weapon program in World War Two? Or Canada? Those are among the surprises.

‘Yes, it would be possible to make a bomb,’ [Neils] Bohr declared, ‘but it would take the entire efforts of a nation to do it.’

Lots of direct quotes from those involved. How close were the Germans? Were they even trying? Did Hitler accelerate research in the West by hounding talent out of Germany. Did that same talent become a conduit through which western secrets were shared with Stalin?

“It is one of the great ironies of the first war of physics that, at precisely the moment the German atomic bomb project formally ceased to exist, the palpable fear of a German atomic weapon that had continued to build in Britain and the United States was about to be translated into action.”

Many typos of the OCR scanning sort, but the worst errors are the obscure construction requiring much backtracking and re-reading.

“The opportunity to halt what would soon become a madness of atomic weapons proliferation quietly slipped away. The simple truth was that international control appeared to suit nobody.”

An agenda-driven polemic. Baggott’s opinions are loud and clear. Maybe it’s me, but it seems these days more authors are foisting their opinion on others in the guise of objective truth.

“The fear remains. If the time for protest has ended, the time for vigilance has not.”

1 thought on “Book Review: The First War of Physics by Jim Baggott (Three Stars)

  1. Too bad the book wasn’t edited well. My press does a good job. Last week I was sent the final (soft) proof to read before printing. Probably not surprising about opinions. It’s a human trait, but the writer needs to own it – my fifty cents worth.

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