“A thrilling, intense, and disturbing account of the atomic era, from the discovery of X-rays to the tragic meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant…Rich with powerful images and fraught with drama” (The Christian Science Monitor).
When Marie Curie, Enrico Fermi, and Edward Teller forged the science of radioactivity, they began a revolution that ran from the nineteenth century through the course of World War II and the Cold War to our current confrontation with the dangers of nuclear power and proliferation. While nuclear science improves our lives, radiation’s invisible powers can trigger cancer and cellular mayhem. Writing with a biographer’s passion, New York Times bestselling author Craig Nelson unlocks one of the great mysteries of the universe.
In The Age of Radiance, Nelson illuminates a pageant of fascinating historical figures: Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Curtis LeMay, John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Ronald Reagan, and Mikhail Gorbachev, among others. He reveals how Jewish scientists fleeing Hitler transformed America from a nation that created light bulbs into one that split atoms; Alfred Nobel’s dream of global peace; and how, in our time, emergency workers and utility employees fought to contain life-threatening nuclear reactors. By tracing our complicated relationship with the dangerous energy we unleashed, Nelson discusses how atomic power and radiation are indivisible from our everyday lives.
Brilliantly told and masterfully crafted, The Age of Radiance provides a new understanding of a misunderstood epoch in history and restores to prominence the forgotten heroes and heroines who have changed all of our lives for better and for worse. “This is the kind of book that doesn’t just inform you but leaves you feeling smarter.” (The Dallas Morning News).
The atomic age arrived with a bang in 1945, terrifying the world with the threat of nuclear holocaust while offering the possibility of a cheap source of energy. Yet neither scenario followed and the era petered out with the century's end, as the digital age was ushered in. Nelson (Rocket Men) writes a wonderfully detailed, anecdote-filled account of atomic energy, from Wilhelm Roentgen's 1895 discovery of radiation to the ongoing hangover of the Fukushima disaster. Roentgen's fateful discovery opens this account and is followed in turn by four more geniuses Pierre and Marie Curie, Enrico Fermi, and Leo Szilard as well as the colleagues who helped them tease out details of a hitherto unknown but spectacular source of energy. Hardly anyone believed in its practicality until Hitler expelled the cream of Europe's physicists and claimed that those remaining were working on an atomic bomb. America embarked on an immense project to beat the Nazis at their own game before becoming entangled with Soviet nuclear program in the bizarre, abysmally wasteful Cold War. Other authors have covered the myriad ways this invisible power impacts our lives, but Nelson brilliantly weaves a plethora of material into one noteworthy volume.
The age of raddiance
I just read my last page of the book where I was introduced by watching Craig Nelson's presentation on Books by C-SPAN. Having grown up under "Duck and Cover", serving as a volunteer of the "Ground Observer Corps" as a high school student and USAF officer '63-67 it is most interesting to read the full story. It is particularly en-lighting that our military leaders did not have the power or influence to enable pre-emptive strikes over our potential enemies. Glad I am entering my 75th year and still here. My wife and I re-watched Dr Strangelove prior to reading the book. One last thought that struck me me as I was reading, 13 years ago as we walked thru the Cathedral in Florence Italy I saw the tomb of E. Fermi and thought " I have heard of him and now I know about him! Also, a few years back we did have the opportunity to his Gen Tibbets in our home in Yuma az. He did what he was ordered to do.