Los Alamos History
April 8, 2009 4:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in reading about the history of Los Alamos National Lab. Does anybody have any recommendations for memoirs, magazine/newspaper articles, books (documentaries) etc. that are engaging and well written about the lab?
posted by backwords to Media & Arts (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Richard Feynman's various memoirs recount some of his time at Los Alamos. They're certainly engaging and well-written, although they're not all about Los Alamos.
posted by GuyZero at 4:30 PM on April 8, 2009

I really enjoyed The Making of the Atomic Bomb. The book covers a lot of territory, from turn-of-the-century atomic physics up through Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it also spends a fair amount of time on Los Alamos, from the founding of the lab until the end of WWII. The Manhattan Project activities are covered in detail, obviously, but there is also a decent amount of material about stuff like what happens when you bring a bunch of civilian scientists and their wives to a supposedly secret military base in the middle of nowhere.
posted by indyz at 4:33 PM on April 8, 2009

LANL's site has a fair amount of stuff that's worth looking at.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:43 PM on April 8, 2009

2nding Feynman. "Engaging" is a word I would definitely use to describe his writing.
posted by thewestinggame at 4:56 PM on April 8, 2009

109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos by Jennet Conant. Excellent book.
posted by littlecatfeet at 7:02 PM on April 8, 2009

It isn't the best museum in the world but in Los Alamos there is the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos itself if you're ever out there.
posted by TimeDoctor at 7:19 PM on April 8, 2009

Los Alamos also has an excellent Historical Museum full of artifacts and details of what life was like in the early days of the lab. Definitely worth checking out, and if you called them I bet they'd be delighted to recommend books.

Richard Rhodes Making of the Atomic Bomb is often recommended as the best book on the overall project to develop the bomb, but I don't know how specific it is to Los Alamos.
posted by Nelson at 7:40 PM on April 8, 2009

I'm only halfway through it - so it might turn into a Dan Brown at the end, but I doubt it - but I'm really enjoying American Prometheus at the moment. (Warning - auto-play sound on website).
Of course, the book is centred on Oppenheimer, but there's a very hefty chunk about the lab. The section I'm reading now is all about the founding of the lab, and has some great details on the particular personalities involved. Judging from the chapter titles, I've still got a few hundred pages to go in that vein. Recommedned.
posted by punilux at 1:57 AM on April 9, 2009

Trinity and Beyond covers the whole history of atomic testing and atomic weapons development and has part of the movie dedicated to tests and experiments at Los Alamos. It's one of my favorite documentaries and quite engaging.

Another fantastic book by Richard Rhodes that I would recommend is Dark Sun. A large part of the book is dedicated to Los Alamos both before and after WWII. The most fascinating part covers the Fuchs/Rosenburg/Greenglass espionage scandals. There is also quite a bit on information on life at Los Alamos' counterpart in Russia, which was all new to me and therefore awesome.
posted by Alison at 7:55 AM on April 9, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers! I've got a lot of reading and exploring to do.
posted by backwords at 8:56 PM on April 9, 2009

posted by neuron at 9:36 PM on April 9, 2009

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