I’ve grown to admire and, yes, like, Christopher Hinton, the engineer who built Britain’s reactors from 1946 to 1957. No one who met him forgot him. I enjoyed reading the resume Hinton provided a senior civil servant. Here’s an extract summarising his wartime role: In 1941 I was transferred to the Filling Factory organisation first as Deputy Director in charge of Engineering and later as Deputy. . .
Anyone disputing the role of individuals in history needs to take a look at Canada’s early reactor history. I won’t go into the details here (of course I tackle it in the book) but let me quote some recollections of George Laurence, the most senior Canadian physicist at the time. The context for his remarks is in itself remarkable. Frenchmen who had fled Hitler were bankrolled by Britain. . .
Walking from Florence to Rome (you can see the Via di Roma sign at the bottom of the photo) over five weeks, what should I bump into when passing through an obscure Umbrian village (I didn’t even record its name) but a direct reference to Enrico Fermi, hero of my first chapter. Why a village square dedicated to Fermi? He was born in Rome, spent time in Pisa and then starred in a Rome university. . .
Even a history requires characters, people you write up in a way that hopefully brings them to life. To spend time with a character, I think the author must remain intrinsically interested in him or her. Plenty of French scientists and physicists were involved in the early history of that nation’s reactors but my interest was piqued early by a chemist, Bertrand Goldschmidt. Not only did he leave. . .
Sometimes the unlikeliest of sources provides clarity. Silverstein’s book is entertaining but rather off topic for me, except take a look at this: Manhattan Project scientists discovered that some neutrons move at about seventeen million miles per hour, one fortieth of the speed of light. If they are “moderated” to about five thousand miles per hour, they have a better chance of being. . .
During my weeks in the American and British archives, the only archives I ended up having time to explore, I concentrated on bringing home as much primary source material as I could. Sometimes the import of what I found was crystal clear, at other times not so much, so I rushed. Mostly I wielded a Canon point-&-shoot, holding the camera and pressing the button with one hand, while keeping the. . .