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Churchill's bomb - how the United States overtook Britain in the first nuclear arms race
Graham Farmelo
Basic Books
UK Publication Date

Perhaps no scientific development has shaped the course of modern history as much as the harnessing of nuclear energy. Yet the twentieth century might have turned out differently had greater influence over this technology been exercised by Great Britain, whose scientists were at the forefront of research into nuclear weapons at the beginning of World War II.

As award-winning biographer and science writer Graham Farmelo describes in Churchill's Bomb, the British set out to investigate the possibility of building nuclear weapons before their American colleagues. But when scientists in Britain first discovered a way to build an atomic bomb, Prime Minister Winston Churchill did not make the most of his country's lead and was slow to realize the Bomb's strategic implications. This was odd -- he prided himself on recognizing the military potential of new science and, in the 1920s and 1930s, had repeatedly pointed out that nuclear weapons would likely be developed soon. In developing the Bomb, however, he marginalized some of his country's most brilliant scientists, choosing to rely mainly on the counsel of his friend Frederick Lindemann, an Oxford physicist with often wayward judgment. Churchill also failed to capitalize on Franklin Roosevelt's generous offer to work jointly on the Bomb, and ultimately ceded Britain's initiative to the Americans, whose successful development and deployment of the Bomb placed the United States in a position of supreme power at the dawn of the nuclear age. After the war, President Truman and his administration refused to acknowledge a secret cooperation agreement forged by Churchill and Roosevelt and froze Britain out of nuclear development, leaving Britain to make its own way. Dismayed, Churchill worked to restore the relationship. Churchill came to be terrified by the possibility of thermonuclear war, and emerged as a pioneer of detente in the early stages of the Cold War.

Contrasting Churchill's often inattentive leadership with Franklin Roosevelt's decisiveness, Churchill's Bomb reveals the secret history of the weapon that transformed modern geopolitics.

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Graham Farmelo is the author of several books, including The Strangest Man, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Farmelo is a Fellow at Churchill College at the University of Cambridge, an Affiliated Professor at Northeastern University, and is a regular visitor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He lives in London.

Foreign Affairs Best Books of 2014
?In this terrific book, Farmelo tells the story of the United Kingdom's nuclear program, which began with pioneering work in Cambridge before World War II and ultimately merged with the United States' Manhattan Project.”

Financial Times
?[A] story as gripping as it is elegantly argued and precise.”

Foreign Affairs
?In this terrific book, Farmelo tells the story of the United Kingdom's nuclear program, which began with pioneering work in Cambridge before World War II and ultimately merged with the United States' Manhattan Project. The book is built around a compelling portrait of Churchill that demonstrates the variability of his judgment.... Farmelo demonstrates that although principles and evidence often shape the relationship between science and policy, personality and politics play just as large a role.”

Wall Street Journal
?This book...shows a keen sense of the human comedy. Who were these people, and why did they behave the way they did?”

Telegraph, Best Books of 2014
?A superb study of Churchill's little-known interest in atomic weapons claims Churchill was the first British prime minister to foresee the potential of the nuclear age.”

Winnipeg Free Press
?[A] nuanced and engaging study of nuclear politics.... [A]n impressive effort, depicting British nuclear policy through a focus on Churchill and his scientists."

Physics World
?Intriguing....Churchill's Bomb is a story of abject failure by the man widely considered to be the greatest Briton ever to have lived.... [I]ts 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."

?The author, a physicist, ranges across Winston Churchill's long career.... Farmelo is especially good on the Second World War years, revealing much about the Anglo-American relationship that has been guarded or unclear.... Colourful."

America in WWII
?Although Farmelo devotes a respectable number of words to explaining concepts related to nuclear science, his background material is well-written, and there's just enough to set the scene. He builds the framework of his argument around the intriguing and complex relationships of the players ? and how could he go wrong when the central player is Winston Churchill?"

Washington Post
?On the eve of World War II, British scientists were well ahead of the United States in the basic research to make a nuclear weapon possible. How the United States wrested that leadership away from Great Britain is the topic of Graham Farmelo's account of a little-known aspect of the war.... [T]his is an interesting story."

Times Higher Education
?Splendid and original.... Churchill's Bomb is at once a tribute to Churchill's foresight in seeing clearly in the inter-war period both the potential and the dangers of a form of energy that few believed would ever be harnessed, and a criticism of him for having allowed leadership in nuclear technology for industrial and military purposes to pass to the US.... In interweaving the political and the scientific, Farmelo succeeds in making the latter beautifully clear even to readers with scant background in the subject. His book also shows that the quarrels between scientists can be just as fierce as those between politicians."

The Observer (UK)
?[An] absorbing account of 20th century atomic politics.... Farmelo's account of Churchill's atomic dreams perfectly captures the essence of the man and of the science of the day."

Keyword Index
World War, 1939-1945 - Science - Great Britain.|Nuclear weapons - Government policy - Great Britain - History.|Atomic bomb - Great Britain - History.|Nuclear weapons - Government policy - United States - History.|Great Britain - Military policy.
Country of Publication
New York (State)
Number of Pages

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