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 a record (he wrote a few books about nuclear history or his own life), he seemed to have been a genuine personality. Here’s how physicist Terence Price, an Englishman, wrote about Goldschmidt:
His wife was English, and his English was faultless. I knew him as a distinguished chemist; but his astuteness only became clear years later when he told me how the French had found out which solvent the British were using to extract plutonium at Windscale (we were prevented from telling them by our agreement with the Americans). Goldschmidt solved the puzzle quickly and cheaply by instructing two young researchers to find out which solvents had recently disappeared from the open literature in the UK.
Price, Terence. 2004. Political Physicist. Book Guild, Sussex, p. 126.