Hiroshima: The World's Bomb

By Andrew J. Rotter | Go to book overview

TWO
Great Britain: Refugees, Air
Power, and the Possibility
of the Bomb

The World Set Free, H. G. Wells’s futuristic novel simultaneously dystopian and hopeful, was published as Europe verged on war in 1914. It was dedicated, curiously, not to an intimate, nor even a person, but to another book: The Interpretation of Radium, by the University of London chemist Frederick Soddy, which Wells acknowledged as the principal source for his scientific material. In his book, Wells predicts the discovery of nuclear fission. His character Wells Holsten explores the phosphorescence of Italian fireflies, then moves to experiment with heating and cooling gases. Another character—a physics professor at Edinburgh—lectures on radioactivity. He declares that the atom, which ‘once we thought hard and impenetrable’, was in fact ‘a reservoir of immense energy’, capable of powering an ocean liner, lighting the city streets for a year, or—and here the professor waved a small bottle of uranium oxide—blowing the lecture hall and everyone in it to fragments. It is, unhappily, to this last purpose that humankind chooses to put nuclear power. World war breaks out in the mid-twentieth century. A plane from the Central European alliance strikes Paris with an atomic bomb. A French pilot vows to retaliate; he flies off to Berlin carrying three atomic bombs made from the radioactive element Carolinum. The moment of truth seems in retrospect almost quaint. As his ‘steersman’ guides the plane, the pilot (‘a dark young man with something negroid about his gleaming face’) straddles his box of bombs. Lifting out the first, ‘a black sphere two feet in diameter,’ he activates it by biting through a celluloid strip between the bomb’s handles, then heaves it over the side of the plane in the general direction of Berlin. He repeats the process with

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Hiroshima: The World's Bomb
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Making of the Modern World ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Praise for Hiroshima vi
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Contents ix
  • Plates xi
  • Introduction - The World’s Bomb 1
  • One - The World’s Atom 7
  • Two - Great Britain- Refugees, Air Power, and the Possibility of the Bomb 31
  • Three - Japan and Germany- Paths Not Taken 59
  • Four - The United States I- Imagining and Building the Bomb 88
  • Five - The United States II- Using the Bomb 127
  • Six - Japan- The Atomic Bombs and War’s End 177
  • Seven - The Soviet Union- The Bomb and the Cold War 228
  • Eight - The World’s Bomb 270
  • Epilogue - Nightmares and Hopes 304
  • Notes 310
  • Bibliographical Essay 340
  • Credits 356
  • Index 357
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