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Rhetoric / History of Science / American History / Literature

The Nuclear Muse
Literature, Physics, and the First Atomic Bombs
John Canaday

Science and Literature


"Canaday's insightful study has added a fourth dimension to our understanding of how we 'learned to stop worrying and love the bomb.'"—Martin J. Sherwin, author of A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and its Legacies

John Canaday analyzes a variety of texts produced by physicists before, during, and after the Second World War, including Niels Bohr's "The Quantum Postulate"; the Blegdamsvej Faust, a parody of Goethe's Faust that cast physicists as its principle characters; The Los Alamos Primer, the technical lectures used for training at Los Alamos; scientists' descriptions of their work and of the Trinity test; and Leo Szilard's post-war novella, The Voice of the Dolphins

"A revelatory exploration of the relation between literary and scientific languages, which John Canaday analyzes with an exceptional sophistication that combines analytical rigor and a wonderful aesthetic and moral sensibility."—Myra Jehlen, Rutgers University

"A stunning examination of how nuclear physicists of the early twentieth century used literary conventions to translate their discoveries about nature into human language, and used that same language to deal with the human and moral consequences of their development of the bomb."—Nicholas Clifford, Middlebury College

"Physicists in the first half of this century became caught up in knowledge, ways of doing science, military projects, and social consequences that pushed their means of representation and understanding to the limit. John Canaday's important study reveals how physicists adopted literary modes of expression to come to terms with the worlds they were making and transforming."—Charles Bazerman, University of California, Santa Barbara

"The existence of 'the bomb' as a literary device is, Canaday demonstrates, as significant as its military and political reality. A fascinating and literate glimpse at the words, metaphors, texts, and subtexts that have shaped our nuclear age."—Richard Wolfson, author of Nuclear Choices

John Canaday is a prize-winning poet and playwright who has been a Watson Fellow and the Starbuck Fellow in Poetry at Boston University. He tutors students in literature, writing, history, mathematics, and physics.

To schedule an interview with the author or to request a review copy of the book, contact our publicity manager, phone: (608) 263-0734, email: publicity@uwpress.wisc.edu.

Book cover is light blue and orange, with blue lettering for the title.

August 2000
LC: 99-052229 QC
340 pp.  6 x 9
14 illustrations


The cloth edition for this title, 978-0-299-16850-6, is out of print.

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Paper $22.95 s
ISBN
978-0-299-16854-4 
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