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Cornwell John Hitler's Scientists

ISBN 13: 9780670893621

Hitler's Scientists

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9780670893621: Hitler's Scientists
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Nazi Germany had a head start in the science and technologies that dramatically transformed armed conflict in the twentieth century, leading to ultimate weapons of mass destruction, and the means of delivering them, ballistic missiles. John Cornwell's powerful history tells the story of Germany's scientists, from Hitler's rise to power in 1933 to his fall in 1945. He describes the behaviour of researchers in the huge span of scientific disciplines in which Germany excelled and led the world. Some were Nazi enthusiasts, many more were fellow travellers. Few resisted or rebelled and their efforts prolonged the war. Their failure to translate leading-edge expertise into military success is a crucial feature of world history. Their degenerate exploitation of death-camp victims and slave labour brought lasting shame on the entire German scientific community. Cornwell's disturbing book, however, raises questions about the conduct of all scientists whatever their nationality or ideology. Cornwell vividly describes how Adolf Hitler used and abused science to his own ends, borrowing from pseudo-biology to develop his murderous racist theories, seizing on rocket science and jet propulsion as desperate last bids to terrify his enemies and stave off defeat. He explores the German quest for an atomic bomb, resolving the intriguing story of Werner Heisenberg and his trip to Copenhagen: the final truth about the failure of Germany's nuclear research. Cornwell sets the genius and the eventual corruption of German scientists against the background of Germany's emergence as the technological powerhouse of Europe by the first decade of the century. In the final stages of his story he explores the record of scientists, East and West, since Hitler's fall. Have scientists behaved any better in the course of the Cold War and beyond?

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Neither Hitler's rocket blitz of England, nor his use of unprecedented weapons technology, nor--most horrifically--his systematic program of genocide could have been achieved without the purposeful work of Nazi physicists, biologists, mathematicians, and technicians. In Hitler's Scientists, John Cornwell asks:

"Were these cases of Germans behaving according to type as Germans? Or scientists in Germany behaving according to type as scientists?"

These chilling questions encompass two more specific points. First, did the scientists who developed poison gas weapons and concentration camps do it for scientific, personal, or political purposes? Second, can scientists claim to remain objective when funded by, and working for, military or government entities? Cornwell, whose last book was Hitler's Pope, takes a hard line against those scientists who stayed and helped the Nazis after Jewish scientists were expelled and Hitler's plans became clear. With the weight of evidence, Cornwell lays flat the various personal reasons the scientists gave for their actions during the war and shows that even before World War I, German scientists had shown themselves willing to subvert laws and morality in pursuit of money and power. Cornwell also clearly outlines the popular pseudosciences--"racial hygiene," astrology, glacial cosmogony--that drove Hitler's madness. Were there any German scientists who were swept up unknowing or unwilling in the Nazi war machine? It's unclear, but Cornwell's analysis of whether Werner Heisenberg was a "hero, a villain or a fellow traveler" is crucial to that question. Heisenberg's role in the Nazi's inability to complete an atomic bomb is still a riddle, but Cornwell presents all available facts and allows readers to draw their own conclusions. In his last chapters, Cornwell draws parallels between Hitler's scientists and those working in today's world of political anxiety, terrorism, and attacks on basic science. He demolishes once and for all the outdated, disproven, and dangerous notion of scientists working in a vacuum, free of the "taint" of the outside world, and answerable only to their funders. --Therese Littleton

From the Publisher:
Cornwell’s previous book, Hitler’s Pope was a 5-week New York Times bestseller in hardcover and was a Newsday, Boston Globe, New York Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and Los Angeles Times, USA Today, bestseller. Hitler’s Pope, which sold nearly 100,000 hardcover copies, was featured on 60 Minutes, was excerpted in Vanity Fair, and was a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the History Book Club, and the Quality Paperback Book Club.

Cornwell also did an 8-city Author Tour to Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

He also received national publicity, radio interviews and national print features.

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Cornwell, John
Published by Viking (2003)
ISBN 10: 0670893625 ISBN 13: 9780670893621
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