I've read plenty of books about the development of the atomic bomb, but concentrating mostly on Los Alamos. It's a tale kind of like Camelot for nuclear physicists—for a time, the world's best and brightest gathered. It's kind of a nice thing to read about, pleasant to ignore the other parts of the atomic bomb's development. But there was more, of course. And Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb doesn't just talk about Los Alamos. There's also the research that came before (going so slowly when all the physicists were at different labs). There's poor, poisoned Hanford. And a few pages of memories of Hiroshima survivors; not as sad to get through as Black Rain, but plenty sad. It is good to read about the sprint of discovery that these scientists achieved, but also good to remember the terrible outcome.
- The uranium mines of Joachimsthal on the Czech-German border; they'd been silver mines earlier.
- In 1939, the Herbert Hoover and others in the USA slung a lot of rhetoric about the evils of mass bombing, bombing of civilians.
- For the wordplay enthusiasts: Lise Meitner sent a cable to an English friend "MET HIELS AND MARGARETHE RECENTLY BOTH WELL BUT UNHAPPY ABOUT EVENTS PLEASE INFORM COCKCROFT AND MAUD RAY KENT" "Meitner's friend passed the message to Cockcroft, who decided... that MAUD RAY KENT was an anagram for RADIUM TAKEN... The committee members did not learn until 1943 that Maud Ray was the governess who had taught Bohr's sons English; she lived in Kent." Folks made a few wrong decisions because they "knew" that Germans were taking radioactives from scientists; I blame cryptic crosswords, a scourge upon England.
Like I said, I've read plenty of books about the development of the atomic bomb—and I think they assumed that I'd already read this one. This is the famous one. In retrospect, that explains some strange emphasis in those books. It's not that the such-and-such point was necessarily worth emphasizing; but it's something that Rhodes didn't find; or some fact that came to light after The Making of the Atomic Bomb came along. Though some of those points are interesting. Now we know that some Japanese cities were spared from firebombing so that the USA could test the A-bomb on them. Rhodes didn't know that. Put that together with Stimson's worries that he'd be accused of treason for supporting bomb development if that expensive thing didn't actually do anything, and that list is even more interesting. Would the war have ended sooner if the USA had fire-bombed those cities, if the emperor was head of a country with no "war machine" remaining?