The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes, was first published in 1987. For this detailed documentation of the development of the most destructive war weapon ever to be created, Rhodes received widespread recognition, winning the 1987 National Book Award, the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, and the 1988 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction.
Rhodes provides extensive information on the biographical background and scientific accomplishments of the international collaboration of scientists that culminated in the creation of the first atomic bomb. In 1939, several scientists became aware of the theoretical possibility of creating an atomic bomb, a weapon of mass destruction vastly exceeding the potential of existing military arsenals. But it was not until the United States entered World War II, late in 1941, that priority was given to funding and organizing research into the creation of such a weapon in a secret operation referred to as the Manhattan Project.
The first test atomic bomb, called Trinity, was exploded in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945. On August 6, an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, another atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Nagasaki. On August 14, 1945, Japan agreed to an unconditional surrender to the Allies, thus ending World War II.
Rhodes addresses the difficult moral and ethical dilemmas faced by the scientists of the Manhattan Project, particularly the implications of creating such a weapon of mass destruction. Originally concerned with ‘‘pure’’ scientific research, those who worked on the Manhattan Project were forced to consider the ultimate effect of their research efforts on the future of the human race.