The American Atom
A Documentary History of Nuclear Policies from the Discovery of Fission to the Present
Edited by Philip L. Cantelon, Richard G. Hewlett, and Robert C. Williams
"A gold mine of revealing and often hard-to-find primary sources."—Nucleus
"Chernobyl has once more demonstrated, as did Three Mile Island, that a nuclear accident anywhere is a nuclear accident everywhere."—Alvin Weinberg
"Debate over nuclear policy, whether about nuclear weapons or nuclear energy, most often focuses on issues of the present or the future. The documents collected in The American Atom remind us, however, that the issues involved have a past. . . . We follow the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the 'father of the American bomb,' thorough his letters, observations of those close to the Manhattan Project and testimony to the Atomic Energy Commission. President Dwight Eisenhower's 1953 'Atoms for Peace' speech demonstrates how far back calls for nuclear sanity go, and the listing of nuclear-weapons accidents shows how dangerous it may be to ignore those calls. The book's purpose is not advocacy . . . but historiography, and among its virtues are listings of readings and suggestions for obtaining source documents. Those interested in the nuclear-technology debate will benefit from this extremely useful compendium."—New York Times
Ever since the late 1930s, scientists have been sharply divided on the question of atomic energy. It is hardly surprising, then, that the American public is so apprehensive about its use. Hack M. Holl, former chief historian a the U.S. Department of Energy, characterizes the furor over nuclear energy as "one of the great debates in American history."
In this second edition of The American Atom, the editors have updated the collection of primary documents that tell the story of atomic energy in the United States from the discover of fission through the development of nuclear weapons, international proliferation, and attempts at control. Anyone interested in the evolution of the issues will want to examine the book's major sections on the Manhattan Project, the Oppenheimer Case, the hydrogen bomb, nuclear testing and the test ban, proliferation, arms control, and the strategy of deterrence.
Philip L. Cantelon is President of History Associates, Inc. Richard G. Hewlett is Senior Vice President of History Associates, Inc., and former chief historian of the Atomic Energy Commission. Robert C. Williams is Professor of History, Dean of the Faculty, and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Davidson College.