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About Richard Rhodes
Richard Rhodes is the author of 25 works of history, fiction and letters. He's a Kansas native, a father and grandfather. His book The Making of the Atomic Bomb won a Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction, a National Book Award and a National Book Critics Circle Award. He lectures widely on subjects related to his books, which run the gamut from nuclear history to the story of mad cow disease to a study of how people become violent to a biography of the 19th-century artist John James Audubon. His latest book is Hell and Good Company, about the people and technologies of the Spanish Civil War. His website is www.RichardRhodes.com.
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Books By Richard Rhodes
This sweeping account begins in the 19th century, with the discovery of nuclear fission, and continues to World War Two and the Americans’ race to beat Hitler’s Nazis. That competition launched the Manhattan Project and the nearly overnight construction of a vast military-industrial complex that culminated in the fateful dropping of the first bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Reading like a character-driven suspense novel, the book introduces the players in this saga of physics, politics, and human psychology—from FDR and Einstein to the visionary scientists who pioneered quantum theory and the application of thermonuclear fission, including Planck, Szilard, Bohr, Oppenheimer, Fermi, Teller, Meitner, von Neumann, and Lawrence.
From nuclear power’s earliest foreshadowing in the work of H.G. Wells to the bright glare of Trinity at Alamogordo and the arms race of the Cold War, this dread invention forever changed the course of human history, and The Making of The Atomic Bomb provides a panoramic backdrop for that story.
Richard Rhodes’s ability to craft compelling biographical portraits is matched only by his rigorous scholarship. Told in rich human, political, and scientific detail that any reader can follow, The Making of the Atomic Bomb is a thought-provoking and masterful work.
People have lived and died, businesses have prospered and failed, and nations have risen to world power and declined, all over energy challenges. Through an unforgettable cast of characters, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes explains how wood gave way to coal and coal made room for oil, as we now turn to natural gas, nuclear power, and renewable energy. “Entertaining and informative…a powerful look at the importance of science” (NPR.org), Rhodes looks back on five centuries of progress, through such influential figures as Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, Benjamin Franklin, Herman Melville, John D. Rockefeller, and Henry Ford.
In his “magisterial history…a tour de force of popular science” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), Rhodes shows how breakthroughs in energy production occurred; from animal and waterpower to the steam engine, from internal-combustion to the electric motor. He looks at the current energy landscape, with a focus on how wind energy is competing for dominance with cast supplies of coal and natural gas. He also addresses the specter of global warming, and a population hurtling towards ten billion by 2100.
Human beings have confronted the problem of how to draw energy from raw material since the beginning of time. Each invention, each discovery, each adaptation brought further challenges, and through such transformations, we arrived at where we are today. “A beautifully written, often inspiring saga of ingenuity and progress…Energy brings facts, context, and clarity to a key, often contentious subject” (Booklist, starred review).
Based on secret files in the United States and the former Soviet Union, this monumental work of history discloses how and why the United States decided to create the bomb that would dominate world politics for more than forty years.
“An impressive account of one of the 20th century’s most prominent biologists, for whom the natural world is ‘a sanctuary and a realm of boundless adventure; the fewer the people in it, the better.’” —The New York Times Book Review
Few biologists in the long history of that science have been as productive, as ground-breaking and as controversial as the Alabama-born Edward Osborne Wilson. At 91 years of age he may be the most eminent American scientist in any field.
Fascinated from an early age by the natural world in general and ants in particular, his field work on them and on all social insects has vastly expanded our knowledge of their many species and fascinating ways of being. This work led to his 1975 book Sociobiology, which created an intellectual firestorm from his contention that all animal behavior, including that of humans, is governed by the laws of evolution and genetics. Subsequently Wilson has become a leading voice on the crucial importance to all life of biodiversity and has worked tirelessly to synthesize the fields of science and the humanities in a fruitful way.
Richard Rhodes is himself a towering figure in the field of science writing and he has had complete and unfettered access to Wilson, his associates, and his papers in writing this book. The result is one of the most accomplished and anticipated and urgently needed scientific biographies in years.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes delivers a remarkable story of science history: how a ravishing film star and an avant-garde composer invented spread-spectrum radio, the technology that made wireless phones, GPS systems, and many other devices possible.
Beginning at a Hollywood dinner table, Hedy's Folly tells a wild story of innovation that culminates in U.S. patent number 2,292,387 for a "secret communication system." Along the way Rhodes weaves together Hollywood’s golden era, the history of Vienna, 1920s Paris, weapons design, music, a tutorial on patent law and a brief treatise on transmission technology. Narrated with the rigor and charisma we've come to expect of Rhodes, it is a remarkable narrative adventure about spread-spectrum radio's genesis and unlikely amateur inventors collaborating to change the world.
Why They Killexplores the discoveries of a maverick American criminologist, Dr. Lonnie Athens -- himself the child of a violent family -- which challenge conventional theories about violent behavior. By interviewing violent criminals in prison, Dr. Athens has identified a pattern of social development common to all seriously violent people -- a four-stage process he calls "violentization":
-- First, brutalization: A young person is forced by violence or the threat of violence to submit to an aggressive authority figure; he witnesses the violent subjugation of intimates, and the authority figure coaches him to use violence to settle disputes.
-- Second, belligerency: The dispirited subject, determined to prevent his further violent subjugation, heeds his coach and resolves to resort to violence.
-- Third, violent performances: His violent response to provocation succeeds, and he reads respect and fear in the eyes of others.
-- Fourth, virulency: Exultant, he determines from now on to utilize serious violence as a means of dealing with people -- and he bonds with others who believe as he does.
Since all four stages must be fully experienced in sequence and completed to produce a violent individual, we see how intervening to interrupt the process can prevent a tragic outcome.
Rhodes supports Athens's theory with historical evidence and shows how it explains such violent careers as those of Perry Smith (the killer central to Truman Capote's narrative In Cold Blood), Mike Tyson, "preppy rapist" Alex Kelly, and Lee Harvey Oswald.
Why They Kill challenges with devastating evidence the theory that violent behavior is impulsive, unconsciously motivated and predetermined. It offers compelling insights into the terrible, ongoing dilemma of criminal violence that plagues families, neighborhoods, cities and schools.
The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) engaged an extraordinary number of exceptional artists and writers: Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Martha Gellhorn, Ernest Hemingway, George Orwell, John Dos Passos, to name only a few. The idealism of the cause - defending democracy from fascism at a time when Europe was darkening toward another world war - and the brutality of the conflict drew from them some of their best work: Guernica, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Homage to Catalonia.
Paralleling the outpouring of writing and art, the war spurred breakthroughs in military and medical technology. So many different countries participated directly or indirectly in the war that Time magazine called it the 'Little World War'; Spain served in those years as a proving ground for the devastating technologies of World War II, and for the entire 20th century.
Ten years ago, Reeve “Red” Wainwright walked on the moon. Mission commander on one of the early Apollo flights, he knew the exhileration of space, floating in zero G’s, riding a rocket. He survived a terrifying accidental fire in the flight module to return a national hero. But what do you do after you’ve gone to the moon?
Some astronauts suffered severe depression, some were born again, some retreated from the glare of publicity. Red Wainwright enjoyed his fame, drank too much and watched his marriage fall apart. In time, he put the pieces of his life back together and began a new career as an energy consultant. But when his book on the energy crisis becomes a best seller, he finds himself a celebrity all over again, and this time the price of fame becomes fatally high: his teenaged son, Chris, is kidnapped and held for ransom.
In a grotesque parody of his father’s flight, Chris is buried alive in a box with a limited life-support system, a space module underground. While Chris struggles to find the courage to survive, Red is finally, joltingly, brought down to earth as he confronts the manipulations of politicians, publishers, reporters and even former astronauts in a frantic race against time to save his son’s life.
"In the year 1846," The Ungodly begins, "men took their families west to California and a new life. The families of the Donner Party went among them." Received with critical acclaim and long out of print, this first novel of the infamous covered-wagon pioneers who were caught in the high Sierra by early snow and forced eventually to eat their dead to survive is a scrupulously accurate reconstruction of their ordeal.
"Certainly [Rhodes] has created an atmosphere as stark and gloomy as an old graveyard in an abandoned town. And certainly he has made a replica of the American past that often sets us pondering the American present. But somehow none of these points quite does justice to this strange, accomplished book. So let me just admit that it is a grim, unpleasant story--a 'hard, hard case,' as the narrator sighs while describing the ghoulish sights that greeted the relief parties. But unpleasant as it is, it is also beautiful. And one keeps reading it." — CHRISTOPHER LEHMANN-HAUPT, New York Times.