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

Michael A. Hiltzik / Jun 04, 2020

Big Science Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military Industrial Complex The epic story of how science went big and the forgotten genius who started it all entertaining thoroughly researched partly a biography partly an account of the influence of Ernest Lawrence s great

  • Title: Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex
  • Author: Michael A. Hiltzik
  • ISBN: null
  • Page: 183
  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • The epic story of how science went big and the forgotten genius who started it all entertaining, thoroughly researched partly a biography, partly an account of the influence of Ernest Lawrence s great idea, partly a short history of nuclear physics and the Bomb The Wall Street Journal.Since the 1930s, the scale of scientific endeavor has grown exponentially The firsThe epic story of how science went big and the forgotten genius who started it all entertaining, thoroughly researched partly a biography, partly an account of the influence of Ernest Lawrence s great idea, partly a short history of nuclear physics and the Bomb The Wall Street Journal.Since the 1930s, the scale of scientific endeavor has grown exponentially The first particle accelerator could be held in its creator s lap, while its successor grew to seventeen miles in circumference and cost ten billion dollars We have invented the atomic bomb, put man on the moon, and probed the inner workings of nature at the scale of subatomic particles all the result of Big Science, the model of industrial scale research paid for by governments, departments of defense, and corporations that has driven the great scientific projects of our time.The birth of Big Science can be traced nearly nine decades ago in Berkeley, California, when a young scientist with a talent for physics declared, I m going to be famous His name was Ernest Orlando Lawrence His invention, the cyclotron, would revolutionize nuclear physics, but that was only the beginning of its impact, which would be felt in academia, industry, and international politics It was the beginning of Big Science 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 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland This is the absorbing and expansive Los Angeles Times story that is important for understanding how science and politics entwine in the United States with striking details and revealing quotations The New York Times Book Review.

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      Published :2020-03-07T14:59:25+00:00

    About "Michael A. Hiltzik"

      • Michael A. Hiltzik

        As a columnist and reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Michael A Hiltzik won the 1999 beat reporting Pulitzer Prize for co writing an article about corruption in the music industry, and the 2004 Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism He earned his Masters degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1974.


    1. While it certainly took me long enough to get through (about three months!), this book was a wonderful read that I'd highly recommend to anyone with overlapping interests in history, politics, militarism, science, the Cold War, investigative journalism, and/or great biography. No science background is necessary, but it helps to have some historical understanding of what led to mechanization of warfare in the 20th C. It's particularly good to keep Oppenheimer in mind throughout your reading, as y [...]

    2. (Note: I received a free copy of this book through First Reads.)Primarily a biography of Ernest Lawrence; a Nobel-laureate physicist who invented the cyclotron and was a key figure in America's development of atomic bombs during World War 2. While Hiltzik does provide some information on the science behind Lawrence's work, his primary focus is on Lawrence's skills as an organizer and fund-raiser. His thesis is that, before Lawrence, scientific research consisted mostly of a lone scientist, perh [...]

    3. I graduated from UC Berkeley and the names of Lawrence and Sproul are on buildings on the campus. When I was in school my professors had been trained or had worked with Ernest O. Lawrence (1901-1958) and Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967). I found the book fascinating as it provided in-depth information about people and places I saw daily and knew only general information. I was most interested in learning about the early years of one of my former professors, which was mentioned in the book, Glenn T [...]

    4. This was a really interesting book on WWII and the cold war. As much about politics as science and even more about E. Lawrence than anything else. I can't say this is for everyone, but I think Hiltzik describes the science in a graspable way. **I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.**

    5. Big ScienceErnest Lawrence and the Invention That Launched the Military-Industrial Complexby Michael HiltzikInformative, interesting, sometimes provocative, sometimes mildly annoying.There are two stories here: Ernest Lawrence and big science. The stories overlap. For most of the book I thought it should have been titled "Ernest". Toward the end, it veered "off track", back to it's real name. Annoying, but nothing to stop a real reader.One century ago, one man, and many others, created a revolut [...]

    6. Biography of Ernest Lawrence and the Rad Lab at Berkeley and the origins of big science. Lawrence was a physicist and experimentalist who pioneered work in early cyclotrons the forerunner of our modern particle accelerators like the LHC. He was and excellent scientist but also had the social and managerial skills to run huge projects and developed early contacts with government and business to forge what would be the model of big science which would be a way of doing things for the rest of the 2 [...]

    7. While titled as a discussion of big science this book focuses most of its attention on the development of nuclear weapons. This is fine but other authors (Rhodes, et al) cover this topic sufficiently. The coverage of recent developments in big science revolve around the failures of funding stemming from an inability to articulate a clear value proposition from the advocates. Readers conversant with the Manhattan Project can probably skip this one.

    8. Throughout the twentieth century, the city of Berkeley has been a breeding ground of invention. Even before World War I, there was August Vollmer, who served as police chief from 1909 to 1931 and was widely regarded for transforming police work from thuggery to a modern profession. Over the years since then, the city has been host to an outsized number of notable people who have made world-class contributions to science, industry, journalism, the arts, the military, and innumerable other fields. [...]

    9. When I was a teenager I was fascinated by nuclear physics and read everything I could find on the subject. My dream was to work in the Cavendish laboratory like my fellow New Zealand countryman, Ernest Rutherford. Then I met 6th form school physics, and hated it. End of dream. I have read very little about nuclear physics over the last 40 years, and was very keen to read this book and rekindle my interest. The book is primarily a biography of Ernest Lawrence, Nobel Prize laureate and inventor of [...]

    10. Ernest Lawrence may be less known than Robert Oppenheimer, but both had equally important roles in the creation of the Atomic Bomb. In fact, after reading this book, one sees how if not for Lawrence’s pre-war visions the Manhattan Project may not have succeeded.Lawrence was a brilliant and driven scientist who established the Rad Lab at UC Berkley in the 1930s. He pioneered a device called the cyclotron, a spiral shaped particle accelerator, which set him on his path to fame. With that fame ca [...]

    11. Big Science by Michael Hiltzik is a book about both the man and the machine that shaped the course of history in the 20th century. But it is also much, much more. Besides following the career of Nobel Laureate Ernest Orlando Lawrence and his earth-shattering invention, the cyclotron, Michael Hiltzik pulls back the curtain on the true culture of science in the United States shedding light equally on both the good and the bad. Lawrence is the epitome of the highest tier of American Scientists, bri [...]

    12. The book never quite decides what it wants to be -- a biography of Ernest Lawrence, a history of the cyclotron/particle accelerators, a history of UC Berkeley's laboratories, or even the nuclear bomb. The last is most frustrating since that's a subject that's been covered in detail elsewhere, and in order to cover it in any detail the book has to branch off from all the other subjects. Likewise the coverage of the post-war debate on nuclear weapons doesn't add a lot to what you can find elsewher [...]

    13. This book is, somewhat, an answer to the question of how we went from the age of a few people working on small setups in elementary physics, to the behemoth collaborations that make up the modern frontier: such as the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN. But it's also a look at scientific personalities in the 40's and 50's: how a willingness to appease government counted for more than consistent, cautious criticism. How far ambition and convenient timing could go to fund the most destructive and p [...]

    14. I always wondered who the Lawrence of Lawrence Livermore Laboratories was. It was Ernest Lawrence, physicist, inventor, fundraiser-extraordinaire, administrator and prophet of "big science" which lead to the development of nuclear weaponry. Even though Ernest Lawrence looms large, this book is not so much a biography as a history of the development of "big science," first coined by physicist Alvin M. Weinberg in 1961, from its founding at the University of California, Berkeley to its demise in t [...]

    15. I enjoyed this one. I didn't realize that the invention of the Cyclotron did so many other things. This is basically about the invention of the Particle Accelerator. The beginning of the book talks about the Large Hadron Collider and how it found the Higgs Boson. Then it goes into the meat and potatoes of the story, which is how Ernest O. Lawrence came to develop Particle Accelerators. If there was one thing Lawrence was really good at, it was selling an idea to an outside party. To have been ab [...]

    16. Hiltzik presents an engaging profile of the most important of the 20th Century's physicists with an eye to his legacy : the cyclotron. It's easy to dislike this image of Ernest Lawrence and I think Hiltzik is essentially a critic, but I am more concerned about the beast Lawrence unleashed and the "arms race" of physical science, now reaching into the billions of dollars for single projects. There is much to consider in this book.

    17. Interesting local history. Interesting that he kept his family and work life so separate. Did not previously know what methods Oak Ridge used or details about plutonium vs. uranium bombs. Mix of science and politics started with atom bomb. Could draw parallels between nuclear bomb & climate change as politicized science questions. Did not know Oppenheimer was a pro-union lefty & got caught in McCarthy-ism, or that Lawrence was conservative leaning. Not sure if I would have wanted to work [...]

    18. This was an okay book about the life of Ernest Lawrence, who changed the way science research was conducted and was deeply involved in the development of the atomic bomb. If given the opportunity, I would have rated this book 2 1/2 stars.The book discusses how one man, Ernest Lawrence, moved science from the closeted laboratory that was the where research was conducted into a large laboratory with many people collaborating on various projects. The move also required not only a shift in the parad [...]

    19. Ernest Lawrence, the nuclear bomb program, and accelerator science are all linked inextricably in history. Lawrence was a talented experimentalist, a gifted lab manager and talent scout, and a spell-weaving salesman. Before him, most science was tabletop experiments with budgets pulled together from universities and private donors. Afterward, large collaborations funded by government funds were the norm in physics. Hiltzik does a wonderful job of capturing Lawrence's personality and priorities i [...]

    20. The name of Ernest Lawrence appears in every popular history of the Manhattan Project or twentieth-century physics I've ever read, but in my mind he's always been a hazy, penumbral figure and I've never had a clear picture of him or his work. I just imagined that guy up there in California with his laboratory and money and influence-wielding, but didn't know his own research on the cyclotron or why he was respected by so many physicists and Cold War ideologues. So: this is the book about Lawrenc [...]

    21. Mr. Hiltzik's argues that the development of the cyclotron for military use transformed physics and related sciences from solitary efforts to multidisciplinary projects undertaken wioth the backing and constraints imposed by government and industry. Mr. Hiltzik tells the story of Ernest Orlando Lawrence' founding of the Radiation Laboratory at the University of California-Berkley and his and its role in the evelopment of high energy physics exploring the mysteeries of the structure of matter and [...]

    22. Very good historical book about Ernest Lawrence, the inventor of the cyclotron, alongside a wider exploration of how Lawrence and the events of the day (WWII) led to the birth of big science. This story is wound up with the creation of the atomic bomb and the military-industrial complex, but where many books concentrate specifically on the bomb and those most directly involved (including the charismatic and sometimes controversial figure of J. Robert Oppenheimer), this book shift perspective to [...]

    23. "'His physics was good, but his arithmetic awful.'" (quoting Robert Serber on Oppenheimer, 93)"Oppenheimer liked teaching, he was just not very good at it." (95)"Lawrence's achievement, he [Oppenheimer] judged, 'wasn't in the realm of understanding nature, but it was in the realm of understanding the problem of studying nature. And he as much as anybody contributed to the whole style of physics.'" (97-8)"'We all knew not to wear a watch or carry keys,' recalled Bill Parkins, a young recruit from [...]

    24. If you've read Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb and are interested in a different perspective on the era, you won't go wrong Michael Hiltzik's excellent biography of Ernest Lawrence. Hiltzik gets the UC Berkeley culture right (I was a graduate student there in the '80s), and understands the dilemmas faced by scientists as large resources are required to get the science done. Lawrence is both the stories hero and villain. He is amazing at getting complex research machines such as the [...]

    25. This book is written by Michael Hiltzik and he is a Pulitzer prize winning journalist and author. This book is Ennest Lawrence a young scientist from Berkely, Calif. He invented the cyclotron that would revolutionize nuclear physics. This would transform everything about how science was done and it continues to this day. His invention would help in World War II, academics and international things. He contributed to the atomic bomb and the space program. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in physics. T [...]

    26. Great book that focused on much of Lawrence's storied career. It was interesting to see what has and has not changed with respect to hunting for funding, tying your work to the the interests of those who have money, exploiting cheap grad student and post doc labor, and racing other institutions to find results. While a lot of the material on the Manhattan project and subsequent effort to make the hydrogen bomb has been covered in greater depth elsewhere, I found the sections about the early days [...]

    27. Michael Hiltzik write's with clarity about Ernest Lawrence and the cyclotron. The science, technology, and politics are intermixed throughout the entire book with a greater emphasis on the politics in the second half of the book. The fact that the science and technologies that evolved had to include Big Money men and government because of the sheer size of the cyclotron and subsequent technologies that finally led to the Large Hadron Collider.I found that the first half of the book to be more in [...]

    28. Big Science chronicles how Nobel Prize winner Ernest Lawrence ushered in the era of scientific inquiry that used vast, expensive machines and large numbers of people. This wave of big science was in stark contrast to the old school methods of small labs and modest equipment that characterized the work of Niels Bohr and Ernest Rutherford. Discoveries of the inner workings of the atom led to the development of the Atomic Bomb and Hydrogen Bomb. The importance of fund raising and political connecti [...]

    29. A solidly informative book about the emergence of Edward Lawrence and the success of experimental physics at Berkeley and at Los Alamos. The idea of "Big Science" gets a little lost in the personal story of Lawrence but the idea is generally developed successfully. The book pales in many respects to the recent biography of Robert Oppenheimer given Oppenheimer's much more complicated and conflicted life. This book is a good complement to that book in terms of broadening the context of issues surr [...]

    30. This is a very detail-oriented and technical history of big science. I'm not terrifically interested in the details of getting Uranium-235 to Plutonium or in whether or not positrons were sticking to steel, but I can't fault the book for its attention to minutiae which I would gloss over were I writing it. I was interested in the human story, which was also present, if not entirely given enough detail to satisfy me completely. This book spans decades and gives an thoroughly researched survey of [...]

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