From Nuclear Transmutation to Nuclear Fission, 1932-1939 deals with a particular phase in the early history of nuclear physics: the race among four laboratory teams to be the first to achieve the transmutation of atomic nuclei with artificially accelerated nuclear projectiles (protons) in high-voltage discharge tubes. This volume covers the background of the development of particle accelerators in the 1920s, the growth of the laboratories and their teams, the race itself, and its aftermath.
The book provides an overview of the history of nuclear physics, from Ernest Rutherford's nuclear atom of 1911 to nuclear fission on the eve of World War II. It focuses on the details of the laboratory "race," which was won by the English team in 1932. The volume also covers the reaction of the different laboratories to the discovery of nuclear fission, their wartime roles, and a brief epilogue on the later careers of the principal personalities.
Table of Contents
Preface. Acknowledgements. List of illustrations. Prologue. The English Stage is Set. American Beginnings. How Many Volts? Protons, Electrons and Gamma Rays. Protons East and West. Giants of Electricity. Difficult years. More Particles, Expected and Unexpected. Runners Up. Deuterium. The Americans Forge Ahead. Fission: Return of Lightfoot. Epilogue. Abbreviations. Notes. Select Bibliography. Name Index. Subject Index.
"Dahl brings an impressive amount of scholarship to his book. He quotes many primary sources: letters, laboratory notebooks, progress reports, and unpublished manuscripts. In addition, the book has a nine page bibliography of journal articles and books. This is the book to read to witness the explosive development phase of modern nuclear physics."
-James O'Connell, American Journal of Physics, No. 71 8th Ed., August 2003
"In fourteen chapters Dahl gives us coverage of nuclear physics that stretches in space and time far beyond what the reader might have expected … We are fortunate that Dahl has collected so many facts and sources of information about a truly fascinating period in the development of modern physics. His lively writing and the many surprising turns of the story will help the reader navigate through the abundance of detail. The book should be keenly enjoyed by everyone who likes to view progress in physics as one big (and mostly friendly) competitive team game."
-Jean-Francois S. van Huele, History of Physics Newsletter, Vol. IX, No. 1
"Per Dahl has written a valuable and entertaining account … It would be hard to imagine a person better qualified than Per Dahl to write a book on this subject."
-Laurie M. Brown
"Dahl's account is wonderfully informative about the personalities who probed the nucleus during the 1930s."
-Currents, December 2002
"The book is well and clearly written, betraying a desire for popular as well as professional audiences in addition to a talent for weaving together the stories he has to tell here."
-Physics World, January 2003
"Dahl offers an interesting account of the early history of experimental nuclear physics research … Dahl very solidly documents the inner workings and motivations within these groups."
-U. Greife, CHOICE, February 2003
"The familial firm handclasp between science and engineering informs this highly readable account of technical achievements and human aspirations in the early history and evolution of accelerators and reactors for nuclear physics research. The author admirably conveys the sense of struggle and accomplishment in this field, following from Ernest Rutherford's model of the nuclear atom in 1911 and the early scattering and transmutation investigations by his group … One's attention is gripped throughout and one's appreciation of the Herculean (oftentimes Spartan) efforts of such brilliant innovators in wedding engineering to science is whetted in this engrossing survey, by a perceptive writer for lay and professional readers alike, of a remarkable era in the unfolding history of physics."
-E. Sheldon, University of Massachusetts, USA
"Anyone with even a moderate interest in how physics developed in the 1920's and 1930's will enjoy the book … an especially interesting theme brought out by Dahl is the importance of Norwegians and other Scandinavians in the development of accelerators and early nuclear physics … Dahl concludes his history with an original and exciting account of the early developments in nuclear fission. It is not easy to weave as much as Dahl has into a coherent whole especially when many of the side stories are as interesting as the main scientific thread. Dahl has effectively organized his work so that the main and tangential stories come through clearly. The history is well worth revisiting and Dahl's summary of it is fresh and engaging."
-Guy T. Emery, Physics Today, August 2003