The Making of the Atomic Bomb

  • by Richard Rhodes
  • Narrated by Holter Graham
  • 37 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Here for the first time, in rich human, political, and scientific detail, is the complete story of how the bomb was developed, from the turn-of-the-century discovery of the vast energy locked inside the atom to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan.
Few great discoveries have evolved so swiftly - or have been so misunderstood. From the theoretical discussions of nuclear energy to the bright glare of Trinity, there was a span of hardly more than 25 years. What began as merely an interesting speculative problem in physics grew into the Manhattan Project and then into the bomb with frightening rapidity, while scientists known only to their peers - Szilard, Teller, Oppenheimer, Bohr, Meitner, Fermi, Lawrence, and yon Neumann - stepped from their ivory towers into the limelight.
Richard Rhodes takes us on that journey step by step, minute by minute, and gives us the definitive story of man's most awesome discovery and invention. The Making of the Atomic Bomb has been compared in its sweep and importance to William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. It is at once a narrative tour de force and a document as powerful as its subject.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Wow... Grade A+ ... Exceptional.

This book has some dense topics and could get bogged down in explanations. But instead it flows effortlessly.

Politics, physics, engineering, culture, warfare, isolationism, human factors, history...
All explained thoroughly, smoothly, and entertainingly!

At no point does it feel like you are learning physics. But he starts by giving a good solid entertaining history of the physics needed for the later engineering and political discussions.

I listen to many nonfiction audiobooks and I've never heard Holter Graham before. But he is immediately one of my very favorites. He does a wonderful job keeping the material fun.

This book won every non-Fiction award and still stands up today. If you are interested in this topic you will not find a better book than this. There is no acceptable reason not to select this book if you like this topic.
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- Amazon Customer

Monumental, Breathtaking! H Graham is fantastic!!!

Would you listen to The Making of the Atomic Bomb again? Why?

I am listening it again. Although I am new to Audible, in my relatively short experience, the narrator, Holter Graham, is unquestionably the best I have come across.


What other book might you compare The Making of the Atomic Bomb to and why?

Men Who Made a New Physics: Physicists and the Quantum Theory, by Barbara Lovett Cline, an excellent treatise on the history of Quantum Physics.


Have you listened to any of Holter Graham’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No but I would like to.


Any additional comments?

THE MAKING OF THE ATOMIC BOMB by Richard RhodesIs a breathtaking journey through the history of nuclear physics and the development of Atomic Theory. It is a masterpiece where Mr. Rhodes regales us with his gift for presenting difficult and intricate concepts in a very logical, insightful, colorful, and above all entertaining fashion.Loosely speaking, the first part of the book covers the key steps that carved the foundations of atomic theory: we get to witness J.J. Thompson discovering the electron; Ernest Rutherford realizing the existence of the nucleus and postulating his “Solar System” model of the atom; Niels Bohr, with a little help from spectroscopy improving that model and carving his more realistic Shell and Orbital design; Chadwick stalking and finally uncovering the neutron; Henri Becquerel and the Curies discovering radioactivity; Heisenberg working his Uncertainty Principle, Schrodinger developing wave mechanics, Pauli his Exclusion Principle. In addition, we become familiar with de Hevesy, John von Neumann, Wigner, Dirac, Millikan, Max Born, Arnold Sommerfeld, Paul Ehrenfest, in summary, all the big architects of Quantum Mechanics and modern physics. But what makes the book a truly superior piece is that Mr. Rhodes, while impeccably describing the science, he submerges the reader into the very personal and complex psychology of each of the characters and the historic context of the time. We see each of these great scientists come to life and wander through history in front of our eyes immersed in the chaotic social and military storm that surrounded the cataclysmic days of the First and Second World Wars.The second part of the book deals more specifically with the creation and the political steps leading to the use of the first atomic bombs on civilian populations by the United States government. We get to see Leo Szilard, the true brain behind the first idea of the atomic bomb and the first to conceptualize the science behind it and its potential consequences; we see Otto Hahn splitting the atom without realizing it and Lise Meitner and Otto Freisch interpreting and using for the first time the term “fission” to name the event; Enrico Fermi “slowing neutrons” and creating a sustained chain reaction; Wigner creating plutonium and enriching uranium; all of this, leading triumphantly to Los Alamos where we witness Edward Teller, Luis Alvarez, Hans Bethe, Lawrence and above all, Robert Oppenheimer, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”, where they orchestrated the biggest human effort and enterprise ever achieved: the ability to create the means of our own destruction. Mr. Rhodes cold and non-judgmental recompilation of first hand witnesses and victims of the explosions is both pathetic and truly horrifying. The harrowing images of children aimlessly wandering and holding strips of their own skin, women without feet walking on their ankles, or a man holding his eye in one hand create an infernal motion picture in our brain whose memory is very hard if not impossible to forget. At 790 comprehensive pages excluding Notes, Bibliography, Photo Credits and Index -886 in total- The Making of the Atomic Bomb is a monumental achievement that deserves all the accolades and awards it has gathered through the years. This book is a veritable must read, a must have, a genuine five stars, a classic.

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- Antonio Rojas

Book Details

  • Release Date: 02-09-2016
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio