The Bastard Brigade

The True Story of the Renegade Scientists and Spies Who Sabotaged the Nazi Atomic Bomb

Sam Kean 2019 Beaverton Library 355.8251 KEA

An engaging and informative history. Kean specializes in books about quirky people. The nuclear physicists, and the teams that hunted the German physicists, were quirky and amusing.

The core message is that the US government was sure the Nazis would have the first bombs, unless the US raced ahead with a prodigeous effort, while hobbling the German effort with attacks and sabotage. The actual German outcome was Werner Heisenberg's Uranium Machines, cubes-on-strings-in-heavy-water. Heisenberg bragged to his Allied captors in May 1945 about his 670% increase in neutrons, cluelessly unaware of the huge Manhattan Project, its megawatt reactors, successors to Fermi's successful atomic pile experiments at the University of Chicago in December 1942.

By August 1945, the German scientists were incarcerated at the Farm Hall estate near London. The August 6 BBC announcment of the Hiroshima nuclear attack left them devastated. p408 As Goudsmit later commented, "That was the first time they really felt that Germany had lost the war. Up to that time, they had believed that Germany at least had won the war of the laboratory. No more."

p409 Heisenberg worked out a complete theory of the American bomb design over the next week. This demonstrates why the Allies considered him the most dangerous scientist in the world.

Many interesting personalities involved; the Joliot-Curies (Irene and Frederic), Moe Berg, Joe Kennedy. Kean describes them well, and produced a book that I read late into the night. I will read his other books, sooner or later.

BastardBrigade (last edited 2022-03-02 01:27:31 by KeithLofstrom)