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Blog

Surely you’re joking?

atomic.jpg
One too many Brits

By Hamish Johnston

One of the things that makes the British great is their love of eccentricity.

Which is why I was not particularly surprised when I came across a reference in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph to “the British physicist Richard Feynman”. The passage was in a review of Jim Baggot’s book Atomic: The First War of Physics.

Feynman was as American as they come — he was born in New York City and spent most of his career at Caltech near Los Angeles.

However, he was famously eccentric so I can understand why a Brit reading about his antics would assume Feynman is British.

I don’t think I am the only person to have spotted the error — but for some reason it has yet to be corrected in the online version

By the way, Physics World will be publishing its own review of the book shortly.

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6 comments

  1. You have the wonder about the quality of a book review that contains that kind of error

  2. Julio Herrera

    Indeed, anyone who knows anything about Feynman knows there was nothing British about him, although Gweneth, his third wife was British. When science historian Jagdish Merah asked Pauli what he thought about Feynman (among other physicists), he answered: “Oh, Feynman, he talks like a Gangster!” Mehra tells us that when he told Feynman, it “made his day.” [Jagdish Mehra, "The Beat of a Different Drum", Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1994, p. xxix].
    Concerning Baggott’s book, it sounds like there’s nothing new about it, which makes me wonder why would they publish yet another book on the subject which contributes nothing, being such good ones like Richard Rodhes’ “The Making of the Atomic Bomb”. On the other hand, I have never seen anything in the English language literature regarding more recent findings about “the other German A bomb” ( http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/print/22270 ). As far as I know, Rainer Karlsch and Mark Walker’ book “Hitler’s Bombe” hasn’t been translated into English, has it?

  3. Jim Baggott

    Although there’s nothing fundamentally new to say about the Manhattan Project, I believe my book is the first to try to weave together the stories of the German programme, the British Tube Alloys project, the S-1 and Manhattan projects and the Soviet project that was aided throughout the war by espionage and really got going after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There are elements of the story that have not been told in this kind of context(such as the efforts by American cryptographers to decode secret messages sent by Soviet spies to Moscow Centre, and which led ultimately to the unmasking of Fuchs, Theodore Hall, Greenglass and the Rosenbergs, and the secret recording of conversations by captured German physicists at Farm Hall in Cambridgeshire).
    The book ‘Hitler’s Bombe’ was written by Rainer Karlsch (and promoted in the English-language press by historian Mark Walker – Walker is not a co-author). When I corresponded with Karlsch last year he said there were no plans for an English translation.
    Of course, Feynman was born in Far Rockaway, New York. He was not English.

  4. Julio Herrera

    You convinced me. I’ll get your book. The review didn’t excite me too much about it, but your answer did.

  5. Jim Baggott

    Excellent. I really hope you enjoy it.

  6. T. R. Huntington

    You should ask Rainer again about a translation of his book….I’ve found it in German (of course), French and even Spanish, so why would there be no plans for an English translation? I’ve seen some web sites that have heaped scorn on his book, but that sholdn’t be a valid reason to avoid publishing it overseas.

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