The Untold Stories of the Scientists Who Helped Create the Nuclear Bomb
Bomb meets Code Girls in this nonfiction narrative about the little-known female scientists who were critical to the invention of the atomic bomb during World War II.
They were leaning over the edge of the unknown and afraid of what they would discover there—meet the World War II female scientists who worked in the secret sites of the Manhattan Project. Recruited not only from labs and universities from across the United States but also from countries abroad, these scientists helped in—and often initiated—the development of the atomic bomb, taking starring roles in the Manhattan Project. In fact, their involvement was critical to its success, though many of them were not fully aware of the consequences.
The atomic women include: Lise Meitner and Irène Joliot-Curie (daughter of Marie Curie), who laid the groundwork for the Manhattan Project from EuropeElizabeth Rona, the foremost expert in plutonium, who gave rise to the "Fat Man" and "Little Boy," the bombs dropped over JapanLeona Woods, Elizabeth Graves, and Joan Hinton, who were inspired by European scientific ideals but carved their own paths
This book explores not just the critical steps toward the creation of a successful nuclear bomb, but also the moral implications of such an invention.
On a July morning in 1945, Joan Hinton saw a world-changing explosion: "It was like being at the bottom of an ocean of light." Hinton, a physicist, was one of the many women scientists integral to the development of the atomic bomb whose stories anchor Montillo's (Fire on the Track for adults) narrative in two sections. The first, set in Europe, traces the origins of nuclear science, introducing Marie Curie, whose findings "would have... devastating consequences in the rush to build the atomic bomb," and Lise Meitner, whose theory of fission underpinned the bomb effort. The second section, set in the U.S., focuses on the women scientists developing the bomb, including Hinton. In blunt, declarative prose, Montillo sketches lives and careers. Sexism (" noticed that female students... were tolerated more than included") and deep ambivalence about the bomb ("How would she be able to live with it herself?") recur as themes. Nonchronological editorial choices, a full-to-bursting cast of characters, and a tendency to breeze past scientific concepts (including beta decay, Brillouin zones, and even the workings of the bomb itself) without explanation make understanding the scope and impact of these women's contributions difficult. Still, Montillo's woman-centered narrative fills a major gap in the popular understanding of how the atomic bomb came to be. Ages 12 up.