"The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era"

Mar 20, 2014

On this edition of ST, we speak with Craig Nelson --- who's written for Vanity Fair, Salon, Popular Science, and other periodicals, and who's the bestselling author of "Rocket Men" as well as a biography of Thomas Paine --- about his newest book, which is a meticulous and consistently engrossing cultural history of the Atomic Age. "The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era" is, as was noted by Kirkus Reviews, "no impersonal 'march of science' story. [Rather, this book] also shows how the development of nuclear physics was deeply influenced by contemporary politics and the interplay of the personalities involved. [This is] an engaging history that raises provocative questions about the future of nuclear science." In a rich and far-reaching tapestry of historical figures and little-known or under-reported stories, drawing upon the works and lives of people like Marie and Pierre Curie, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, FDR, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Harry Truman, Curtis LeMay, JFK, Robert McNamara, Ronald Reagan, and Mikhail Gorbachev, this (at times rather controversial) book effectively provides the reader with a new understanding of a misunderstood epoch in world history --- an epoch that reaches all the way up to the present, in fact. Moreover, as a starred review in Publishers Weekly put it: "Nelson writes a wonderfully detailed, anecdote-filled account of atomic energy, from Wilhelm Roentgen's 1895 discovery of radiation to the ongoing hangover of the Fukushima disaster.... Other authors have covered the myriad ways this invisible power impacts our lives, but Nelson brilliantly weaves a plethora of material into one noteworthy volume."