Uncle Phil and the Atomic Bomb
The history of the Manhattan project and its successful creation of the atomic bomb during World War II has been well documented. It is not well known, however, that a separate and crucial part of this project was carried out by the U.S. Navy at its Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC. This project, led by the young physicist, Philip Abelson devised a novel liquid thermal diffusion process for separating the fissionable 235U from 238U. Eventually this process was employed at Oak Ridge and significantly contributed to the construction of the uranium bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. In "Uncle Phil and the Atomic Bomb", John Abelson chronicles the life of his Uncle, the son of Norwegian immigrants, as he grows up in Tacoma, Washington, studies chemistry and physics at Washington State University and joins Ernest Lawrence as a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. The book then covers the war years and beyond as Philip Abelson and his Navy colleagues work on the bomb effort and then turn their attention to the design of the first atomic submarine. Most of the biography is from an unpublished autobiographical sketch written by Philip Abelson 20 years ago. Throughout the book, John Abelson stitches the story together with his own insights into his uncle's life, as well as providing the historical back-drop of what was happening at the time. This is a riveting, untold story of a determined, brilliant, and highly creative scientist working against the odds at a crucial time in American history.
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