In 1898, Marie Curie first described a phenomenon she called "radioactivity." A half-century later, two physicists would stand before dawn in the New Mexico desert, slathering themselves with sunscreen-and fearing that the imminent test detonation might ignite Earth's atmosphere in a cataclysmic chain reaction and transform our planet into a burning star.
This is the epic story of Curie's quest to unlock the secrets of the material world; of the scientists-Rutherford, Bohr, Einstein, Oppenheimer-who built upon her work; of the day the first weapon of mass destruction dropped on Hiroshima, bringing both sudden terror and sudden peace, and of the new era of global uncertainty that emerged in its wake. With the clarity of great science writing, the vividness of historical narrative and the insight of biography, Before the Fallout is an unforgettable and sweeping account of the scientific discovery that changed the world.
"History," writes Preston, " . . . is inherently about people, how they thought, what they did with their thoughts, and how they interacted with the individuals immediately around them." With Before the Fallout , she conveys that history with both style and compassion.