Book Title: Uranium: War, Energy, and the Rock that Shaped the World
Author: Tom Zoellner
Publisher: Penguin Books 2010
Page Count: 354
Spoilers In Review: No
First Impression of the Book: The first thing to mention about this book is that it is written by a historian, so it is a historical account of uranium from discovery through to present day application. This means readers looking for a more scientific account of uranium will need to look elsewhere. Great book though! Well researched and deeply interesting.
Summary Of The Book:
Tom Zoellner is a dedicated author. TZ took uranium and painted a massive picture of its history, its applications and the many people that have been affected by or have come to appreciate/fear uranium and its potential for destruction or life giving energy.
I will mention again that this is a history book more than a scientific account, there are pieces about the science behind uranium but as TZ admits he is not that familiar with science himself so its put to one side to focus on the factual side of uranium.
This book starts in the Democratic Republic of Congo where in 1915 uranium was found at a site called 'Shinkolobwe' which is one of the biggest deposits of naturally occurring uranium in the world and contributed most of the uranium used in the second world war in the atomic bombs used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
TZ digs deep (excuse the pun) into the rich history surrounding uranium and the many strange and wonderful characters that started popping up when it was revealed that uranium was very special indeed and was worth lots of money to the right people.
Uranium covers 3 main aspects of the history of the element in question. TZ starts with the use of uranium in a war setting, talking about the Manhattan Project and the use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. TZ then goes on to talk about the cultural aspects of uranium, the slave labour, the poverty and eventually the salvation it brought to countries around the world. Finally the book focuses on the political side of uranium, what countries did to stay in the war game, the trading, fighting, espionage and the diplomatic decisions countries had to make to keep everyone safe.
The writing style of TZ is great, clear, concise and he writes with plenty of narrative which suits me well as its the best way for me to take more information in. TZ also brings in other fun factual treats in to keep a lighter side as uranium is an intense subject. For example he talks about H.G Wells and his prediction of the atomic bomb and the reason why American money is called dollars, fun little 'ahh' moments that break up some of the heavier sections.
There are several other areas worth mentioning. TZ gives some insight into the apocalyptic side of cultures as well which were very interesting, as well as some apocalyptic views from the scientific community from people like Sigmund Freud. Also there is a chilling account from W. L . Lawrence who was present at the dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki. I found the piece about the Nevada nuclear testing grounds in America unbelievable in the sense that how can people get away with these decisions but that is beyond me and my little blog :D.
TZ has written a well rounded, thorough tome on the uranium and the affect it has had on the world, there are many great stories, some very sad and even a little anger inducing...but on the whole TZ has nailed it, he travelled around the world and had his head stuck in hundreds of books to put this book together and to make sure he got his facts right and it makes it totally worth reading.
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