Making the Bomb

Course Overview

Instructor: Dave Feldman Email:
Office: Third Floor Arts and Sciences Phone: x249, 244-7635
Mailing List: Office Hours: TBA
Web page:

Course Overview

I have several main goals for this course:

  1. I want you to learn some of the history behind the Manhattan Project, including a qualitative understanding of some physics and chemistry.
  2. I want you to gain experience thinking critically about scientists, science, and technology.
  3. I want you to gain a greater understanding of science as an institution and science as a culture.
  4. I want to begin to think about how the multiple narratives of the atom bomb and Hiroshima affect U.S. culture in general, and the culture of science in particular.


  1. Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb. Simon and Schuster, 1986.
  2. Kai Bird and Lawrence Lifschultz, eds., Hiroshima's Shadow: Writings on the Denial of History and the Smithsonian Controversy. The Phamphleteer's Press, 1998.
  3. Richard Wolfson, Nuclear Choices. MIT Press, 1993.
  4. Peter Bacon Hales, Atomic Spaces: Living on the Manhattan Project. University of Illinois Press, 1997.
  5. Paul Boyer, By the Bomb's Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age. University of North Carolina Press, 1994.
  6. Paul Boyer, Fallout. Ohio State University Press, 1998.
  7. Robert Jay Lifton and Greg Mitchell, Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial. Grosset/Putnam, 1995.
We will read all or Rhodes and a lot of the essays from Bird and Lifschultz. Everyone will need to buy Rhodes; buying a copy of Bird and Lifschultz is strongly recommended. We'll do a smattering of readings from the other books listed. All the books will be on reserve.


Your evaluation will be based roughly on the following: I will assign grades (for those who so opt) by following the guidelines in the COA Course Catalog. I do not have any quota of A's, B's, etc.

Short Response Papers

During the course you will write three of four short response papers. See the daily schedule for due dates. Here are some guidelines for the short papers.

Study Groups

  1. By the end of the first week, you should form study groups of 4 people each.
  2. These groups should meet at least one time a week for around an hour.
  3. Groups may be asked to bring ideas and questions to class.

Final Synthetic Paper

Other Policies and Stuff

  1. This course does not fulfill the QR requirement. It does satisfy the history requirement.
  2. The final version of the syllabus will be on the course webpage.
  3. All course work must be completed by the end of the term. I will not grant an incomplete except in extreme circumstances.
  4. I expect you to attend class. Missing a class isn't a big deal, but please let me know in advance if you can.
  5. We will see at least two films. These may require evening attendance.
  6. We may need to schedule a few extra classes during the last two weeks of the term.
  7. Academic misconduct -- cheating, plagarizing, etc. -- is bad. Any cases of academic misconduct will result in a judicial hearing, as per pp. 14-15 of the COA handbook. Possible consequences range from failure of the assignment to expulsion. For more, see the revised statement on academic integrity passed unanimously by the faculty two winters ago.

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