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Nuclear Family

Rudolf Peierls, 19 June 1980

Disturbing the Universe 
by Freeman Dyson.
Harper and Row, 283 pp., £6.95, November 1979, 0 06 011108 9
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... The most striking thing about this book is how well it is written. Each word is right for its place, the images are apt, and the quotations expressive. In explaining that his style is not that of the social scientists, the author says: ‘The methodology of this book is literary rather than analytical. This is the result of my upbringing and background ...

Counting weapons

Rudolf Peierls, 5 March 1981

Britain and Nuclear Weapons 
by Lawrence Freedman.
Papermac, 160 pp., £3.25, September 1980, 0 333 30511 6
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Countdown: Britain’s Strategic Forces 
by Stewart Menual.
Hale, 188 pp., £8.25, October 1980, 0 7091 8592 8
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The War Machine 
by James Avery Joyce.
Quartet, 210 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 7043 2254 4
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Protest and Survive 
edited by E.P. Thompson and Dan Smith.
Penguin, 262 pp., £1.50, October 1980, 0 14 052341 3
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... Nuclear weapons, and the knowledge of the horrors they are capable of producing, have been with us for 35 years. We might be tempted to let familiarity blunt the impact of these facts on our mind, were it not so frequently refreshed by news of ever more powerful weapons, ever-increasing numbers in the stockpiles, and ever more efficient means of delivering them to their targets ...


Jeremy Bernstein, 31 July 2014

... holiday and was never allowed to return. The scene shifts to Britain, and two refugee scientists, Rudolf Peierls and Otto Frisch. Niels Bohr had shown in a paper that the fissile isotope of uranium was U-235. Frisch and Peierls investigated how much would be needed to make a bomb. They underestimated the amount by a ...

Spying made easy

M.F. Perutz, 25 June 1987

Klaus Fuchs: The man who stole the atom bomb 
by Norman Moss.
Grafton, 216 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 246 13158 6
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... bomb project was set in motion in 1940 by two refugee physicists in Birmingham, the German-born Rudolf Peierls and the Austrian-born Otto Robert Frisch, when they found that the critical mass of the fissile uranium isotope 235 needed for an explosion was no more than a few kilograms. In the summer of 1941 ...

Fear and Loathing in Los Alamos

John Ziman, 4 September 1986

Bird of Passage: Recollections of a Physicist 
by Rudolf Peierls.
Princeton, 350 pp., £21.20, January 1986, 0 691 08390 8
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A Life in Science 
by Nevill Mott.
Taylor and Francis, 198 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 85066 333 4
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Stallion Gate 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins Harvill, 287 pp., £10.95, May 1986, 0 00 222727 4
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Day of the Bomb: Hiroshima 1945 
by Dan Kurzman.
Weidenfeld, 546 pp., £14.95, February 1986, 0 297 78862 0
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Assessing the Nuclear Age 
edited by Len Ackland and Steven McGuire.
Chicago, 382 pp., £21.25, July 1986, 0 941682 07 2
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... item for your autobiography.’ Landau died before reaching the age of reminiscence, but Rudolph Peierls was his friend and Nevill Mott was another near-contemporary. Now that they are both about eighty, they may feel able to risk his posthumous scorn. Mott is a sort of father-in-science to me, and Peierls an uncle. Yet it ...


Eric Hobsbawm, 8 April 1993

Jews and the German State: The Political History of a Minority, 1848-1933 
by Peter Pulzer.
Blackwell, 370 pp., £35, March 1992, 0 631 17282 3
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The Jews of Germany: A Historical Portrait 
by Ruth Gay.
Yale, 336 pp., £19.95, September 1992, 0 300 05155 7
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... reminds us, was in any case mild by the standards of other countries. As the refugee physicist Sir Rudolf Peierls put it, ‘in pre-Hitler Germany being Jewish was a bearable handicap.’ It was not German or the much more palpable Viennese anti-semitism that converted Herzl to Zionism, but the Dreyfus case in France. One wishes, however, that Pulzer had ...


Joel Shurkin, 23 January 1986

Clouds of Deceit: The Deadly Legacy of Britain’s Bomb Tests 
by Joan Smith.
Faber, 174 pp., £8.95, November 1985, 0 571 13628 1
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Fields of Thunder: Testing Britain’s Bomb 
by Denys Blakeway and Sue Lloyd-Roberts.
Allen and Unwin, 242 pp., £10.95, November 1985, 0 04 341029 4
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... out, Britain had lusted for its own atomic bomb since two refugee scientists, Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls at the University of Birmingham, suggested that fission could make a bomb. Technologically, the British were ahead of the Americans at the war’s start, and American scientists were so impressed that they urged President Roosevelt to propose ...

Fat Man

Steven Shapin: Churchill’s Bomb, 26 September 2013

Churchill’s Bomb: A Hidden History of Science, War and Politics 
by Graham Farmelo.
Faber, 554 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 571 24978 7
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... about calculations done in Birmingham early in 1940 by the émigré physicists Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls, which established that no more than a kilogram of fissionable U-235 was required for a bomb. American scientists, like the Germans, who also believed that tons might be needed, had not gone ahead with their proposed Cambridge Project, named ...

What has he got?

Norman Dombey: Saddam’s Nuclear Incapability, 17 October 2002

Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Net Assessment 
IISS, 104 pp., £40, September 2002Show More
Saddam’s Bombmaker: The Daring Escape of the Man who Built Iraq’s Secret Weapon 
by Khidhir Hamza and Jeff Stein.
Touchstone, 342 pp., £10, April 2002, 0 7432 1135 9
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Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Assessment of the British Government 
Stationery Office, 53 pp., September 2002Show More
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... by the United States.’ But the Manhattan Project grew out of a memorandum that Otto Frisch and Rudolf Peierls at the University of Birmingham sent to the British Government in March 1940. They pointed out the fundamental principle of a nuclear weapon (and the reason it is still so difficult to make one): the necessity to separate the isotope ...

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