Martijn Van Calmthout - Sam Goudsmit and the Hunt for Hitler's Atom Bomb

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Martijn Van Calmthout - Sam Goudsmit and the Hunt for Hitler's Atom Bomb

Post by NGC300 » Sat Jun 01, 2019 5:45 am

Martijn Van Calmthout - Sam Goudsmit and the Hunt for Hitler's Atom Bomb

| Non-Fiction | History/Biography | epub | 3 mb |

The first biography in English of a leading Dutch American physicist, who discovered the subatomic property of "spin" and spearheaded the search for Hitler's atom bomb as World War II came to an end. This engaging biography of an important Dutch physicist brings to light his significant scientific contributions and remarkable life story. Based on recently released archives and material from Goudsmit's daughter Esther, science journalist Martijn van Calmthout has reconstructed a life marked by both brilliance and tragedy. As a young man Sam Goudsmit came to international attention when he and a colleague published a seminal paper that introduced the property of electron spin into atomic theory. This discovery helped to remove remaining questions about atomic theory and brought him into contact with the likes of Einstein, Heisenberg, and other leading physicists of the early 20th century. In 1927, he was offered a position at the University of Michigan and moved with his wife to the United States. When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, Goudsmit, a Jew, feared for the lives of his parents and other family members still in Holland. His attempts to get his German colleague Werner Heisenberg to intervene on their behalf proved fruitless. Toward the end of World War II, he was recruited by the Department of Defense as the scientific leader of the co-called Alsos mission, whose task was to search for evidence of German atom-bomb development. The team eventually found stores of uranium ore and a nuclear reactor, among other evidence. While in Europe, Goudsmit had an opportunity to return to The Hague, his hometown. There in the rubble of his parent's house, he discovered that they had been deported to Auschwitz. After the war, he returned to the United States and became the editor of Physical Review and Physical Review Letters; the latter is a leading physics journal to this day. But guilt over his failure to save his parents haunted him for the rest of his life. This is a biography that in part reads like a thriller and restores long-overdue recognition to an important 20th-century physicist.


“A fascinating scientific discovery. Hunting for a German atomic bomb during World War II. And an extraordinary life story. Martijn van Calmthout’s book on physicist Samuel Goudsmit has it all. And it shows that there is much more to the history of science than just well-known names like Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.”

—Florian Freistetter, astronomer and author of Isaac Newton, the Asshole Who Reinvented the Universe

“This remarkably interesting and important book tells the fascinating story of an accomplished scientist of the quantum era who becomes enmeshed in the Allied effort to uncover the Nazis’ atomic bomb secrets. With its complex plot and inherent drama and intrigue, it would make a riveting screenplay.”

—Christopher T. Hill, Distinguished Scientist, Fermilab, and coauthor of Beyond the God Particle

“The makings of a great movie are in this story of a prominent physicist, the Jewish Dutch Sam Goudsmit, who was sent to Europe after D-day with the mission of finding out just how close the Germans were to building their own atomic bomb. With bullets still flying, Goudsmit and his Alsos team tracked down secret laboratories, stashes of uranium, a nascent reactor, and the scientists—including one of the world’s great physicists, Werner Heisenberg, who was believed to be running the Nazi program. Goudsmit was tracking down old friends and colleagues.”

—Joel N. Shurkin, author of True Genius: The Life and Work of Richard Garwin, the Most Influential Scientist You’ve Never Heard of

“A vivid account of how physics research was conducted before the discovery of quantum mechanics, and the intriguing story of the Allies’ effort to ascertain whether Germany was in possession of an atom bomb, this book also recounts the turbulent science politics of the postwar era while telling the life story of Sam Goudsmit.”

—Josef Eisinger, physicist, historian of science, author of Einstein on the Road, and editor/translator of Einstein at Home

“Offers intriguing insights into the failed German A-bomb project, from both Allied and German perspectives. Also, the book features personal vignettes that humanize many of the physicists involved, especially Sam Goudsmit. Fascinating read.”

—Arthur W. Wiggins, Physics Professor Emeritus at Oakland Community College and coauthor of The Human Side of Science

“Describes with great care and meticulous research the extraordinary life of Dutch American physicist Sam Goudsmit. This compelling narrative details Goudsmit’s top-secret mission to uncover how close the Nazis were to developing the atom bomb. Leading us through the discovery of hidden atomic facilities and interrogations with top German physicists, Calmthout’s account is absorbing—particularly in its portrayal of Goudsmit’s realization that Hitler’s totalitarian regime has suffocated science and scholarship. Later, the Nobel Prize nominee—who was co-credited with the discovery of the spinning electron—is haunted by America’s use of the atom bomb and joins Linus Pauling and others in calling for nuclear disarmament. Calmthout’s portrayal is fascinating, as Goudsmit kept company with the greatest physicists of the twentieth century—a fact the author makes great use of.”

—Cory Taylor, Emmy Award–winning filmmaker and author of How Hitler Was Made

“Reading this book, I was gripped with the feeling that I was walking side by side with Dr. Sam Goudsmit, this humble yet brilliant physicist turned detective, to discover whether or not Hitler’s scientists were close to developing the atomic bomb. After reading about his carefully documented close personal encounters with essentially all the key scientists and political leaders of the day, I now feel that I have a much deeper understanding of the many personalities of whom I previously only had an ‘academic’ knowledge. The book reveals fascinating insight into the tensions existing during the last years of World War II, when the race to owning the bomb would literally determine the future of all humankind.”

—Alan E. Waltar, PhD, past president, American Nuclear Society, and retired professor and chair, Department of Nuclear Engineering, Texas A&M University