AUTHORSmith, P. D.
TITLEDoomsday Men: The Real Dr. Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon
PUBLISHERSt. Martin’s Press
CITYNew York, NY

The author of this book integrates history, biography, science, and fiction to examine the cultural and intellectual forces that enabled the development of the superweapons of the twentieth century. Its inspiration was physicist Leo Szilard, whose life and science were influenced by the popular culture of his day. The author seeks to explain what caused Szilard and other talented scientists to develop weapons, from chemical and biological agents to the atomic and hydrogen bombs. That provides a background for a discussion of the ultimate weapon, the cobalt bomb or doomsday machine, which could destroy life on earth by spreading radioactive cobalt over the earth’s surface. Szilard’s revelation of the possibility of that weapon in 1950 shocked the public, and although the weapon was never developed, the idea of it greatly increased society’s fear of nuclear weapons. The book includes a discussion of the role of the doomsday machine in Cold War fiction and film, including Stanley Kubrick’s film Doctor Strangelove and Neville Shute’s book On the Beach.

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