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This review is from: Top Secret Exchange: The Tizard Mission and the Scientific War (Hardcover)
I found this book slightly disappointing. Zimmerman has done a lot of research from original and secondary sources but somehow I think he fails to see the wood for the trees.
He makes a lot of (British) dithering over whether there should be quid pro quo exchange or free exchange of information but fails to fully explain what Britain got for giving away its secrets. From the book it seems that what Britain got was the ability to buy from the US equipment that was up to date (using British ideas, science and designs).
There are many subjects he omits entirely or does not properly address. For example he mentions the 1943 Quebec agreement on the atomic bomb and says that after the agreement was signed "information exchanges resumed". What he does not say is that after the agreement was signed the British gave the USA all their atomic knowledge in exchange for the copies of progress reports sent to the US President. The agreement also included a clause "The British government recognize that any post-war advantages of an industrial or commercial character shall be dealt with as between the United States and Great Britain on terms to be specified by the president of the United States to the Prime Minister of Great Britain". From a British perspective this was very important and this aspect of the agreement was truly shocking to many British scientists involved.
Zimmerman does not mention the Enigma work done at Bletchley Park and whether or not this was considered/shared with the US.
He mentions several times US concern with patents but does not say anything about whether there were corresponding concerns about British patents. For me, the most interesting aspect of the whole "scientific information exchange" is that fact that the US gave thought to protecting its commercial interests (post-war) whereas it seems the British gave this no thought. It must have been clear (surely) to those involved that the "Whittle" turbojet, nuclear energy and the magnetron would have significant commercial benefits post-war. For example Zimmerman says the "Whittle" turbojet, became the "basis of all American jet engine development", a truly massive commercial advantage. It would have been interesting for Zimmerman to have explored this aspect of the exchange further.
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Initial post: 9 Sep 2009 15:30:02 BDT
Last edited by the author on 9 Sep 2009 15:30:41 BDT
T. D. Welsh says:
Good points! But the difference between US and British policies could be explained by the fact that Britain was facing imminent conquest, whereas the USA could afford to take a rather more long-term (and hence pragmatic and self-interested) view.
Of course the British have always (well, since 1900 or so) been slow to capitalise on their inventions, many of which have been snapped up and exploited by American entrepreneurs. My favourite example is Lyons, whose LEO mainframe computer was inspected by representatives of IBM at a time when the latter had nothing remotely comparable. Within a few years, Lyons was doing its computing on IBM machines!
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