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Churchill's Bomb: A Hidden History of Science, War and Politics Hardcover – 3 Oct 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (3 Oct. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571249787
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571249787
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 4.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 304,945 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

A story as gripping as it is elegantly argued ... a wonderful companion piece to one of the most authoritative books on this subject, Richard Rhodes's epic 'The Making of the Atomic Bomb'. (Lisa Jardine Financial Times)

An excellent book ... Farmelo is a splendid word-portraitist, and his book charts the odysseys, geographical as well as scientific, of the men who played a key role in developing the bomb ... authoritative and superbly readable. (Max Hastings Sunday Times)

Graham Farmelo's very fine book ... illuminates the nexus between science, politics, war, and even literature better than anything I have read for some time. The issues it raises are both eternal and especially pressing now. It is not yet Book of the Year time but this has to be a contender. (Peter Forbes Independent)

Dazzling ... Farmelo, prize-winning biographer of the physicist Paul Dirac, recounts this important story with skill and erudition. (Piers Brendon Guardian)

Splendid and original ... in interweaving the political and scientific, Farmelo succeeds in making the latter beautifully clear even to readers with scant background in the subject. (Times Higher Education A W Purdue)

Scrupulously researched and superbly written ... Churchill's Bomb is a powerful and moving contribution to literature about the 20th century and to biographical and historical writing. (Vin Arthey Scotsman)

Graham Farmelo is the author of an outstanding biography of Paul Dirac, the most eccentric of the 20th-century geniuses to whom we owe our understanding of the atom.Churchill's Bomb tells an even more dramatic story, and tells it brilliantly ... Farmelo ingeniously interweaves the narratives of the nuclear scientists, many of them Jewish refugees from Germany, with that of Churchill in war and peace (Daniel Johnson The Times)

Absorbing ... Farmelo's account of Churchill's atomic dreams perfectly captures the essence of the man and the science of the day. (Robin McKie Observer)

A riveting, powerful, and timely reminder that high politics is anything but rational. Graham Farmelo vividly reveals how Winston Churchill learned about atomic physics in the 1920s, warned about the imminence of nuclear weapons in the 30s, and yet, paradoxically, squandered Britain's lead in the field during the Second World War. (Roger Highfield, Science Museum executive, Daily Telegraph columnist, and bestselling science writer)

What a brilliant and compelling book! Graham Farmelo sensitively and eloquently deconstructs the twists and turns of Winston Churchill's involvement with nuclear weapons over nearly half a century, setting this unfamiliar tale in the context of the turbulent times. At its heart are the ambiguities of the World War II relationship between a scientifically innovative but economically weakened Britain and the inexhaustibly energetic USA with unlimited resources. (Sir Michael Berry, University of Bristol)

"An excellent book. Graham Farmelo draws on many sources to show how Churchill, his scientific adviser Frederick Lindemann, and a host of other scientists and politicians developed the atomic bomb.Churchill's Bomb brings these characters back to life with anecdotes, quotations, and personal sketches. But Farmelo's book does more than unfold the hopes, doubts, and fears engendered by the bomb: it illuminates the relationship between big science and modern democracy." (James W. Muller, University of Alaska, Anchorage)

This is a fascinating book. Graham Farmelo offers a fresh and thoroughly researched history of the development of atomic weapons in his insightful and engaging account of Winston Churchill's failure to forge a partnership of equal exchange between Great Britain and the United States in the development of the bomb. Farmelo offers vivid vignettes of political and scientific personalities, with special attention to the widely disliked Oxford physicist Frederick Lindemann, who became Churchill's science and technology guru in the 1920s." (Mary Jo Nye, Professor of History Emerita, Oregon State University, and author of Michael Polanyi and His Generation)

'Churchill's Bomb is a story of abject failure by the man widely considered to be the greatest Briton ever to have lived ... its brilliance lies in the way the story is told, for it is a tale not just of physics or politics but also, more importantly, of people.' (Physics World)

Book Description

In Churchill's Bomb, Graham Farmelo - the author of the Costa award-winning biography The Strangest Man - offers us a strikingly fresh view of Winston Churchill's long political career.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An interesting book but I felt about shortchanged that there wasn't enough on the actual building of the British bomb.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is fascinating account of developing atom bomb by Britain. Political personalities as well as scientist's role is told in an extremely well researched book. Relations with United State form a major part of history of developing the bomb. The book has current interest in debate about the independent nuclear deterrence for UK.
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By Brian R. Martin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Winston Churchill had an early interest in science and its potential for military applications. He had read the prophetic novels of H. G. Wells and his prediction of `atomic' bombs, and took a keen interest in developments in nuclear physics. He even wrote a extensive note on the subject for his own education and had it checked by Frederick Lindemann (later the Head of Oxford University Physics Department). In 1931 he felt confident enough to write an influential article about the impact of science for The Strand Magazine. Among other observations, he predicted that advances in nuclear physics would lead to weapons of unimaginable power. He wrote: "There is no question among scientists that this gigantic source of energy exists. What is lacking is the match to set the bonfire alight, ...." At the start of WWII, no other national leader knew as much about the potential of nuclear physics as Churchill. The question then is, given this, how did Britain, the leader in the field, come within a few years to be playing second fiddle to America, and be forced to acquire its own nuclear weapons in the subsequent cold war of the 1950s?

This is the central question addressed by Graham Farmelo. Along the way we are introduced to a large cast of leading British and American politicians, military men, and scientists, including refugees from Nazi Germany, such as the physicists Rudolf Peierls and Otto Frisch, whose theoretical work first showed that a nuclear fission weapon would be possible using only modest amounts of uranium. Lindemann, universally referred to simply as `Prof', was one of the scientists. He `worshipped' Churchill and became his most important advisor on scientific matters, particularly as applied to war.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Again a book that covers a subject area that is not commented on.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
well researched and very informative. Much new material.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Well researched but with a penchant for obscure words, this book leads the reader through the interactions of politics in the figure of Britain's leading wartime statesman and the myriad of super intelligent scientists who only considered the merit of their work after mankind questioned the morality of it.
A fascinating insight.
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Farmelo is a good scientific writer; his treatment of Paul Dirac is excellent and well-organised.

"Churchill's Bomb" is more of the same. Many of the facts in this book are available elsewhere but Farmelo summons a coherent, entertaining and informative narrative by pulling the widespread sources together and adding considerable colour. The description of Niels Bohr's treatment by Churchill is masterful. The bomb project's progress is underpinned at all points by a continued but unobtrusive timeline of the general progress of the war, and of the political landscape in the USA, Europe and the UK in the postwar period. A "must have" for anyone with even a passing interest in the higher politics of Armageddon
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Format: Hardcover
Lisa Jardine, in her magnificent and wholly favourable review of this book, describes it accurately as "The result is a story as gripping as it is elegantly argued and precise."

This book is all these things! And as the Director of the Science Museum asked people who read it on the train to do so ostentatiously because it is so wonderful a book, I was more than happy to read it so that everyone could see me on the recent train journey that I took.

It is, as the specialist and other reviewers have said, a masterwork, or, perhaps to use a Farmelonian construct, a true "gold standard" work. It gives fascinating and unique insights into Churchill, the creation of the Atomic Bomb, and as the publishers say, truthfully, gives us enthralling new insights into Winston Churchill, his personality, his friendship with HG Wells, and the perhaps unique way in which he, as a humanities trained layman, was able to grasp the importance of science and do so well before the advent of nuclear research itself.

And of course how he dropped the ball during World War II and unwittingly gave the lead on nuclear development to the USA....

All this is told as grippingly and elegantly as Lisa Jardine suggests!

But while other reviewers can concentrate on the details, I think that a more important thing has happened with this book. Graham Farmelo is a leading scientist, writing some of this book at the same Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton where Einstein once studied before him and where some of the world's greatest scientific minds still work today.

This is however also a magnificent work of history - it is very much an interdisciplinary book, a superb piece of historical analysis by a physicist!
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