Customer Review

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Graham Farmelo overturns The Two Cultures in this book, 3 Oct 2013
This review is from: Churchill's Bomb: A Hidden History of Science, War and Politics (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!

I read it on the train to Cambridge, the place where CP Snow coined the phrase the "two cultures", the humanities and the sciences, where never the twain should meet.

Yet in this book they meet and do so with all the effortlessness and gripping prose to which Lisa Jardine refers.

I think that this is an historical landmark book, the nail in the coffin of Snow's division of humanities and scientists, since Farmelo can be understood and enjoyed as much by those with history degrees as those with qualifications in the sciences. The Irish writer Neil Belton has rightly praised Farmelo for the latter's interest in the arts, in poetry, in prose fiction and in using the arts and music to come together with science to create a new synthesis in which Snow's division becomes a thing of the past.

So you don't need a degree in either history or physics to enjoy this book (and as someone has joked, even chemists can understand this book too!)

It is a book to read on the train, at home or on holiday, a work of brilliant prose, historical detection and scientific insight.

And once you have read it buy a copy to give to a friend!
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Oct 2013 14:34:16 BDT
Owen Synge says:
Does it mention the German scientists conspiracy to redirect the research into the making the H bomb before the A bomb, to delay the Nazi's getting the bomb? (And save them selves form being seen as opposing the NAZI government)

Does the book mention the Japanese research toward the Nuclear bomb?

Both these stories are rarely documented so I would not be surprised if they where missed.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Feb 2014 20:22:20 GMT
Bob Matthews says:
A good way to find out would be to read the book.
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