From New York Times best-selling author Sam Kean comes the gripping, untold story of a renegade group of scientists and spies determined to keep Adolf Hitler from obtaining the ultimate prize: a nuclear bomb
Scientists have always kept secrets. But rarely have the secrets been as vital as they were during World War II. In the middle of building an atomic bomb, the leaders of the Manhattan Project were alarmed to learn that Nazi Germany was far outpacing the Allies in nuclear weapons research; Hitler, with just a few pounds of uranium, would have the capability to reverse the entire D-Day operation and conquer Europe. So they assembled a rough and motley crew of geniuses – dubbed the Alsos Mission – and sent them careening into Axis territory to spy on, sabotage, and even assassinate members of Nazi Germany’s feared Uranium Club. No theater of the war, from battlefields to laboratories, was considered off-limits, and for good reason: the entire outcome of the war rested on its shoulders.
The details of the mission rival the finest spy thriller, but it’s the incredible characters – both heroes and rogues alike – who make this story sing. There’s an ex-Major League baseball catcher turned clandestine spy. There’s Joe Kennedy Jr., who died trying to out-macho his kid brother, future president John F. Kennedy. There’s a Dutch physicist who, while hunting down top German scientists, also needed to save his Jewish parents from the concentration camps. There are Nobel Prize winners like Werner Heisenberg, Albert Einstein, and Irène Joliot-Curie, daughter of Marie Curie. And dozens more. Thrust into the dark world of international espionage, these scientists and soldiers played a vital and largely untold role in turning back one of the darkest tides in human history.
“Richly informative…. Once again, Kean proves his mettle as one of science literature’s most gifted practitioners.” (Booklist)
“Riveting…. Kean has a knack for distilling chemistry to its essential elements, using stories and humor…. this is a dose of fresh air. (Library Journal)
“Compelling stuff, written with verve and in a style that veers between simple lightheartedness and open jocularity…. Eminently accessible and enjoyable.” (Robin McKie, The Guardian)