Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex

Big Science

Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex

By Michael Hiltzik

 

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Read a Q&A for Big Science | Read the Press Release

Big Science has been selected one of iBooks’ 20 Best Books of July 2015.

“I was soon gripped…this is an astonishing story: US physicist Ernest Lawrence is at its core, but its scope is broad and full of context and characters.”
Jon Butterworth writing in Nature – Read the review

“An exciting book… a bright narrative that captures the wonder of nuclear physics without flying off into a physics Neverland… Big Science is an excellent summary of how physics became nuclear and changed the world.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

From a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and Los Angeles Times contributor, the untold story of how science went “big,” built the bombs that helped win World War II, and became dependent on government and industry—and the forgotten genius who started it all, Ernest Lawrence.

Since the 1930s, the scale of scientific endeavors has grown exponentially. Machines have become larger, ambitions bolder. The first particle accelerator cost less than one hundred dollars and could be held in its creator’s palm, while its descendant, the Large Hadron Collider, cost ten billion dollars and is seventeen miles in circumference. Scientists have invented nuclear weapons, put a man on the moon, and examined nature at the subatomic scale—all through Big Science, the industrial-scale research paid for by governments and corporations that have driven the great scientific projects of our time.

The birth of Big Science can be traced to Berkeley, California, nearly nine decades ago, when a resourceful young scientist with a talent for physics and an even greater talent for promotion pondered his new invention and declared, “I’m going to be famous!” Ernest Orlando Lawrence’s cyclotron would revolutionize nuclear physics, but that was only the beginning of its impact. It would change our understanding of the basic building blocks of nature. It would help win World War II. Its influence would be felt in academia and international politics. It was the beginning of Big Science.

This is the incredible story of how one invention changed the world and of the man principally responsible for it all. Michael Hiltzik tells the riveting full story here for the first time.

Read a Q&A with Michael about Big Science

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REVIEWS:

* NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW will have a great review in the 7/19 issue (featured on the cover): “Lucidly written… Hiltzik’s tale is important for understanding how science and politics entwine in the United States, and he moves it along efficiently, with striking details and revealing quotations.” Full review

* WALL STREET JOURNAL (7/10): “His entertaining, thoroughly researched book ‘Big Science’ is an unusual take on Lawrence’s life and work—partly a biography, partly an account of the influence of his great idea, partly a short history of nuclear physics and the Bomb.” Full review

* WASHINGTON POST (7/12): “The author of several books on the interplay of society and technology, Hiltzik is best at making the science of Lawrence’s lab accessible to the reader.” Full review

* LOS ANGELES TIMES featured an adaptation by Hiltzik: How the father of big science went small with the invention of a color TV tube.

* TIME Magazine “A Nation of Books

* DALLAS MORNING NEWS (7/11): “As Michael Hiltzik’s commanding new analysis argues, Lawrence was far more than just another scientist tinkering with another machine… Hiltzik has written not so much a biography as a study of Lawrence’s role in broader questions involving postwar science and politics.”  Full review

* CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER (7/9): “an exciting book… a bright narrative that captures the wonder of nuclear physics without flying off into a physics Neverland… Big Science is an excellent summary of how physics became nuclear and changed the world.” Full review

* MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE (7/6): “an informative and thought-provoking account of the role played by the cyclotron and Lawrence’s radiation laboratory in the emergence of the military-industrial complex.” Full review