As a World War II buff, I was thrilled to “discover” Blackett’s War by Stephen Budiansky. The first half of the book introduces the cast of characters, all of whom were real scientists. It also sets the background for why these men were approached by, or volunteered their services to, the British and American military forces. Patrick Blackett was a Nobel Prize winning physicist for his discovery (1932) of the positron. He received the Nobel prize in 1948.
The Battle of the Atlantic saw hundreds of German submarines sink thousands of Allied ships. The scientists featured in this book became members of various operational research sections in the navies and air forces of Britain and the United States. Using scientific methods they analyzed what the Allies were doing to stop the successful Nazi attacks on Atlantic convoys. The statistics of before and after are staggering.
Also touched upon was the discovery and breaking of the German Enigma Code and how National Cash Register of Dayton, Ohio replicated scores of Enigma machines for the United States.
Budiansky is at his best when writing anecdotally. He tends to bog down on the pre-war politics and the clashes between science and military leaders. Overall, this is highly readable history.
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–Jim Harris, retired sales rep
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