Big Science

Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex

Big Science

The epic story of how science went “big” and the forgotten genius who started it all—“entertaining, thoroughly researched…partly a biography, partly an account of the influence of Ernest Lawrence’s great idea, partly a short history of nuclear physics and the Bomb” (The Wall Street Journal).

Since the 1930s, the scale of scientific endeavor has grown exponentially. The first particle accelerator could be held in its creator’s lap, while its successor grew to seventeen miles in circumference and cost ten billion dollars. We have invented the atomic bomb, put man on the moon, and probed the inner workings of nature at the scale of subatomic particles—all the result of Big Science, the model of industrial-scale research paid for by governments, departments of defense, and corporations that has driven the great scientific projects of our time.

The birth of Big Science can be traced nearly nine decades ago in Berkeley, California, when a young scientist with a talent for physics declared, “I’m going to be famous!” His name was Ernest Orlando Lawrence. His invention, the cyclotron, would revolutionize nuclear physics, but that was only the beginning of its impact, which would be felt in academia, industry, and international politics. It was the beginning of Big Science.

“An exciting book….A bright narrative that captures the wonder of nuclear physics without flying off into a physics Neverland….Big Science is an excellent summary of how physics became nuclear and changed the world” (The Plain Dealer, Cleveland). This is the “absorbing and expansive” (Los Angeles Times) story that is “important for understanding how science and politics entwine in the United States…with striking details and revealing quotations” (The New York Times Book Review).
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 528 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451675764 | 
  • July 2016
List Price $18.00
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About the Author

Michael Hiltzik
Photograph by Amy Myers

Michael Hiltzik

Michael Hiltzik is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and author who has covered business, technology, and public policy for the Los Angeles Times for three decades. He currently serves as the Times’s business columnist and hosts its business blog, The Economy Hub. His books include Big Science, The New Deal, Colossus, Dealers of Lightning, and The Plot Against Social Security. Mr. Hiltzik received the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for articles exposing corruption in the entertainment industry. He lives in Southern California with his wife and two children. Follow him on Twitter @HiltzikM.

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