Bomb book wins top honour

November 26, 2004

A University of Manchester academic has been awarded a prestigious international prize for his book about the history of science.

Dr Jeff Hughes received the History of Science Society's 2004 Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize at a ceremony in Austin, Texas.

His book, entitled 'The Manhattan Project: Big Science and the Atom Bomb', was unanimously chosen as 'most outstanding book directed to wide public audiences'.

Dr Hughes, who is senior lecturer in the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, joins an illustrious list of former winners that includes Dan Kevles, Nancy Tomes, Peter Dear, Richard Rhodes and John Heilbron.

The last British winner of the award was John Brooke, now of The University of Oxford, in 1992.

The book, Dr Hughes's first, charts the rapid growth in the scale of scientific projects during the course of the 20th Century but questions the widely held belief that this expansion began during World War II with work on the atom bomb.

At its height, the Manhattan Project, as it became known, employed 130,000 people and cost $2 billion, equivalent in size to the entire American automobile industry.

However, Dr Hughes argues that 'Big Science' existed well before the Manhattan Project, citing the growth of interest in astronomy in the late 18th and 19th centuries as just one example.

Of the award, Dr Hughes said: "I was utterly amazed when I found out I had won; many of my heroes in the field are past recipients.

"Hopefully, winning this prize will help get the message across that by critically re-examining the history of science we can illuminate present-day thinking and inform public understanding of science and science policy."

Larry Owens, Chair of the Prize committee, said: "This slender volume deftly summarises the bomb project while embedding it within a larger narrative that traces the trajectory of Big Science from the early 1900s through the collapse of the Superconducting Supercollider in 1993.

"Reminding his readers that the Manhattan Project and the scientific style it represents were as much a European as an American phenomenon, Hughes forces students to grapple with the pros and cons of a style of science that dominated the post-war years."
Notes to editors:

The History of Science Society Conference 2004 was held in Austin, Texas, between November 18 and 20.

'The Manhattan Project: Big Science and the Atom Bomb' was published in the UK in 2002 by Icon Books and subsequently in the US by Columbia University Press.

"Hughes develops his thesis in interesting fashion. His essay is free of technical jargon but will be most accessible to readers familiar with the bomb's history and with huge, expansive installations such as CERN or Fermilab" - Booklist

A second British academic, Janet Browne, of the Wellcome Centre for the History of Medicine, London, won the Society's 2004 Pfizer Prize for outstanding books in the history of science.

University of Manchester

Related History Articles from Brightsurf:

Reconstructing global climate through Earth's history
Accurate temperature estimates of ancient oceans are vital because they are the best tool for reconstructing global climate conditions in the past.

The colorful history of plastids
Emerging genome data provides new insight into plastid evolution.

The magnetic history of ice
The history of our planet has been written, among other things, in the periodic reversal of its magnetic poles.

Researchers map the evolutionary history of oaks
Oaks have a complex evolutionary history that has long eluded scientists.

Ancient Roman port history unveiled
A team of international researchers led by La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne have, for the first time worldwide, applied marine geology techniques at an ancient harbour archaeological site to uncover ancient harbour technologies of the first centuries AD.

The ancient history of Neandertals in Europe
Parts of the genomes of two ~120,000-year-old Neandertals from Germany and Belgium have been sequenced at the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology.

A history of the Crusades, as told by crusaders' DNA
History can tell us a lot about the Crusades, the series of religious wars fought between 1095 and 1291, in which Christian invaders tried to claim the Near East.

The history of humanity in your face
The skull and teeth provide a rich library of changes that we can track over time, describing the history of evolution of our species.

Retrieving climate history from the ice
In the context of a major European Union project, experts from 14 institutions in ten European countries have spent three years combing the Antarctic ice, looking for the ideal site to investigate the climate history of the past 1.5 million years.

Rivers raged on Mars late into its history
A new study by University of Chicago scientists catalogued these rivers to conclude that significant river runoff persisted on Mars later into its history than previously thought.

Read More: History News and History Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to