Life and Times of the Atomic Bomb: Nuclear Weapons and the Transformation of Warfare, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Life and Times of the Atomic Bomb

Nuclear Weapons and the Transformation of Warfare, 1st Edition

By Albert I Berger


226 pages

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Life and Times of the Atomic Bomb takes up the question of how the world found itself in the age of nuclear weapons – and how it has since tried to find a way out of it. Albert I. Berger charts the story of nuclear weapons from their origins through the Atomic Age and the Cold War up through the present day, arguing that an understanding of the history of nuclear weapons is crucial to modern efforts to manage them. This book examines topics including nuclear strategy debates, weapon system procurement decisions, and arms control conferences through the people and leaders who experienced them.

Providing a chronological survey, Life and Times of the Atomic Bomb starts with the major scientific discoveries of the late 19th century that laid the groundwork for nuclear development. It then traces the history of nuclear weapons from their inception to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and the reaction to them by key players on both sides. It continues its narrative into the second half of the twentieth century, and the role of nuclear weapons throughout the Cold War, engaging in the debate over whether nuclear weapons are an effective deterrent. Finally, the closing chapters consider the atomic bomb’s place in the modern world and the transformation of warfare in an age of advanced technology.

This clear and engaging survey will be invaluable reading for students of the Cold War and twentieth-century history.


"A lively and provocative study of one of the great specters that has hung over the Earth since 1945. A timely work, given the current state of the world."

— Richard L. DiNardo, author of Germany and the Axis Powers: From Coalition to Collapse

"Berger’s fascinating and well-written "biography" of the atomic bomb, from X-rays to Iranian centrifuges, introduces the science, the major people, ideas, events, and efforts at control. Told within the context of world tensions and Niels Bohr’s principle of complementarity, it illuminates the problems and pitfalls of nuclear weapons."

— Joseph C. Fitzharris, editor of Patton’s Fighting Bridge Builders

"Berger provides an astute yet brief synthesis of the history of the nuclear age, in particular the effect of the bomb on foreign relations and the planning of war. Summing Up: Recommended."

— B. C. Odom, CHOICE Reviews

Table of Contents

Introduction Part One: Chain Reactions Chapter One: The Science and the Scientists, 1895-1939 Chapter Two: The First Nuclear Arms Race, 1939-1943 Part Two: Rapid Assembly Chapter Three: "One Grand Final Exam Day," 1943-1945 Chapter Four: "I am become Death" Part Three: Two Scorpions in a Bottle Chapter Five: Wasting Assets, 1945-1952 Chapter Six: The Cross of Iron Chapter Seven: "Solution Unsatisfactory" Chapter Eight: ANADYR Part Four: "we all breathe the same air" Chapter Nine: The Politics of Parity Part Five: The Weapon of the Weak Chapter Ten: Sweet Dreams and Suicide Machines Epilogue Index

About the Author

Albert I. Berger is Associate Professor of History and Peace Studies at the University of North Dakota. His previous publications include The Magic That Works: John W. Campbell and the American Response to Technology (1993) and Divided Germany during the Cold War, 1945-1962 (2001).

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Military / Nuclear Warfare
HISTORY / Military / United States
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century
HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century