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Recommendations Wanted: Manhattan Project

  1. Apr 22, 2015 #1
    Hello Everyone,

    First off, I'm not sure if this is the right place for this post... I guess if it isn't it will be moved :P

    I would greatly appreciate any suggestions on books, articles, documentaries, etc. about the Manhattan Project. And yes, I know that I can do a quick Google search, but I'd like to get personal recommendations before shooting in the dark.

    Thanks!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 22, 2015 #2

    e.bar.goum

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    Oh, I have so many books on that topic on my shelves at home, and I'm not at home! Here's a test of my memory...

    A great one is The Manhattan Project by Cynthia C. Kelly. It contains a lot of primary source material. I'd start here.

    Then there's The Los Alamos Primer by Robert Serber, a book based on a series of lectures at Los Alamos.

    About the first ever pile CP1 - The First Pile by Corbin and Trapnell.

    If you want a biography of Oppenheimer, you may like J. Robert Oppenhimer: A Life, by Abraham Pais and Robert Crease.

    For post-Manhattan project reading, The Atomic Times by Micheal Harris is entertaining, but not too technical (he was a soldier, it's about his experiences). I'm reading Command and Control by Eric Schlosser at the moment, which is about command and control in WW2 and beyond. Terrifying, frankly. But a really great book.

    I also have The First War of Physics: the secret history of the atom bomb 1939-1949 by Jim Baggot on my bookshelves, but I haven't read it yet. It looks good though.

    Then there's a really great blog - Restricted Data by Alex Wellerstein, a science historian. http://blog.nuclearsecrecy.com/
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 22, 2015
  4. Apr 22, 2015 #3
    Thank you so much! I'm so excited about everything that you recommended! After I read a book or two is it okay if I contact you again to discuss it?
     
  5. Apr 22, 2015 #4
    Oh and thank you to whoever moved my post to the correct area!
     
  6. Apr 22, 2015 #5

    e.bar.goum

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    No worries, I hope you like some of them - they vary wildly from very dry to very entertaining. And sure, happy to talk whenever.
     
  7. Apr 22, 2015 #6

    Astronuc

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  8. Apr 22, 2015 #7

    e.bar.goum

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    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  9. May 30, 2015 #8
    I recommend American Prometheus: The Triumph And Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin. The authors researched and worked on this biography for decades, and the result is awesome. Oppenheimer's time at Los Alamos is covered in detail, but his imminent security clearance hearing in 1954 is the focal point of the book.

    At Work in the Atomic City: A Labor and Social History of Oak Ridge, Tennessee by Russell B. Olwell is also good if you are interested in the working and living conditions of the laborers.
     
  10. Jun 1, 2015 #9

    Astronuc

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    Another good book is Brotherhood of the Bomb by Gregg Herken. 2002. The book covers the interrelationship of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence and Edward Teller.
     
  11. Jun 2, 2015 #10
    Two of my favorite videos on the Manhattan project are "A moment in time" and "Los Alamos from below." I like these because they take you inside the day to day life in the boom town, everything from the palpable fear of fire from the makeshift housing to the Europeans being upset that there were no bathtubs. Edward Teller talks of how Feynman's bongo playing used to piss him off in "A moment..", and Feynman talks about how he got in trouble with security for receiving coded messages from his family and picking locks in "Los Alamos..." Good fun.



     
  12. Jun 2, 2015 #11

    berkeman

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    I thought there was a NOVA PBS TV show on the Manhattan Project, but this is all I can find with a search of PBS:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/filmmore/index.html [Broken]

    Also, one of Feynman's books had a lot of great stuff on the Project. I think it is this one (I don't have my copy of it any more):

    http://www.photosynthesis.com/images-titles/P480-85.jpeg
    P480-85.jpe
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  13. Jun 2, 2015 #12
    Thank you all so much for the suggestions! They are greatly appreciated! I will give more of an update when I get caught up on some of this material!
     
  14. Jun 4, 2015 #13

    epenguin

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    I don't know how far you want to go, how much material you need. I guess the already reccomended books "Brighter than a thousand suns" and "The making of the atomic bomb" are incontournable - unavoidable. Anything this big there are bound to be people who say they got this or that or everything wrong, but without these books you won't know what anyone else is talking about.

    And I can recommend others including some more out-of-the-way, as I have been fascinated by the story and period. But I think it would be more important to recommend just the following one thing.

    There is general recognition that the personality of Oppenheimer was key (so it has gone under the microscope). General Groves thought he was indispensable, without him the bomb would not have been ready for1945 and then history would have been significantly different. This result was due to his nous, insights, decisions, style, leadership - and charisma.

    And therefore I think you should give yourself the chance to feel this, as many people in the physics community and the project did. After all it is a rare quality. It came over even on radio and I felt it when I heard him in, it must have been mnyah mnyah, 1953. In a British institution called The Reith Lectures. I can't have understood too well what he was saying - but just the voice and phrasing were memorably hypnotic. I have since then verified this memory. I think you can still hear it http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00h9lm8 - I think this can't be accessed free from outside the UK (and I can't at the moment) but there are ways to access it from outside paying not more than for a book and it will give you a lot more material!

    That is what I most recommend.
     
  15. Jun 5, 2015 #14

    jim hardy

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    Almost 50 years ago i was perusing the new library building at SMS University in Springfield Missouri.
    I stumbled across a trove of memoirs and papers by Manhattan project members. I was entranced for a whole day and just scratched the surface. Why it was there i cannot imagine. So long ago now i remember no detail.

    Dont know where you are, but if you're in the area inquire of the oldest librarian in the place.

    There are museums in Los Alamos and Oak Ridge....

    .http://losalamoshistory.org/museumshop.htm
    http://amse.org/
     
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