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The American Lab

An Insider’s History of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

C. Bruce Tarter

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Behind the scenes of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the quintessential American lab.

Nobel laureate Ernest O. Lawrence and renowned physicist Edward Teller founded the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1952. A new ideas incubator, the Lab was at the heart of nuclear testing and the development of supercomputers, lasers, and other major technological innovations of the second half of the twentieth century. Many of its leaders became prominent figures in the technical and defense establishments, and by the end of the 1960s, Livermore was the peer of Los Alamos National Lab, a…

Behind the scenes of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the quintessential American lab.

Nobel laureate Ernest O. Lawrence and renowned physicist Edward Teller founded the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1952. A new ideas incubator, the Lab was at the heart of nuclear testing and the development of supercomputers, lasers, and other major technological innovations of the second half of the twentieth century. Many of its leaders became prominent figures in the technical and defense establishments, and by the end of the 1960s, Livermore was the peer of Los Alamos National Lab, a relationship that continues today.

In The American Lab, former Livermore director C. Bruce Tarter offers unparalleled access to the inner workings of the Lab. Touching on Cold War nuclear science and the technological shift that occurred after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he traces the Lab’s evolution from its founding under University of California management through its transfer to private oversight. Along the way, he highlights important episodes in that journey, from the invention of Polaris, the first submarine-launched ballistic missile, to the Lab’s controversial role in the Star Wars program. He also describes Livermore’s significant responsibilities in stockpile stewardship, the program that ensures the safety and reliability of the US nuclear arsenal.

The book portrays the lab’s extensive work on thermonuclear fusion, a potential source of unlimited energy; describes the development of the world’s largest laser fusion installation, the National Ignition Facility; and examines a number of smaller projects, such as the Lab’s participation in founding the Human Genome Project. Finally, it traces the relationship of the Lab to its federal sponsor, the Department of Energy, as it evolved from partnership to compliance with orders, a shift that affected all of the national laboratories. Drawing on oral histories, internal laboratory documents, and the author’s personal experiences from more than fifty years as a Lab employee, The American Lab is an illuminating history of the Lab and its revolutionary work.

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The American Lab

C. Bruce Tarter

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Reviews

Reviews

The American Lab is highly recommended reading not just for science collections; but for anyone who would better understand the intersection of and connections between political, scientific, educational, and military communities.

Today we know Silicon Valley as a veritable field of dreams for startups, but in The American Lab, the former director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, C. Bruce Tarter, recounts how a culture that valued debate, questioning, and passion made Livermore not only the first successful startup in the San Francisco Bay Area but a uniquely American lab.

There are few books by authors who have had front row seats to the history of Cold War nuclear weapons laboratories. Tarter, who had firsthand contact with many of the key players, gives readers the feeling of actually being a member of the Livermore weapons design teams. He draws interesting comparisons with Los Alamos and describes the trials and tribulations of the fledgling program from the perspective of the scientists and engineers who were there.

This is a fascinating history of an iconic laboratory that created new directions for US nuclear weapons during the height of the Cold War. Tarter presents an insider’s view of a diverse array of scientific endeavors and the captivating stories of the events and the people behind these efforts.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6.125
x
9.25
Pages
472
ISBN
9781421425313
Illustration Description
43 b&w photos
Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Part I. Making the Cold War Cold, 1952-1971
Chapter 1. Origins
Chapter 2. Getting Started
Chapter 3. The Foundation of Deterrence
Chapter 4. Arms Control, Atoms for Peace, and

Preface
Acknowledgments
Part I. Making the Cold War Cold, 1952-1971
Chapter 1. Origins
Chapter 2. Getting Started
Chapter 3. The Foundation of Deterrence
Chapter 4. Arms Control, Atoms for Peace, and the Test Ban
Chapter 5. Organization and Evolution of the Laboratory
Chapter 6. Development of the Stockpile
Chapter 7. Nuclear Excursions
Chapter 8. Transition
Part II. Lasers, Lasers, Nothing but Lasers, 1971-1988
Chapter 9. Changing of the Guard
Chapter 10. The Nuclear Weapons Program
Chapter 11. Lasers
Chapter 12. The Energy Crisis and New Programs
Chapter 13. Evolution of the Broader Lab
Chapter 14. Star Wars
Chapter 15. End of the Era Part III. Renaissance, Repression, and Reorganization, 1988-2008
Chapter 16. End of the Cold War
Chapter 17. Post-Cold War Changes
Chapter 18. Early Days with the New Administration
Chapter 19. Stockpile Stewardship and the Presidential Decision
Chapter 20. Growth of the Lab
Chapter 21. The Troubles and Their Weathering
Chapter 22. Summing Up
Chapter 23. Transitional Years
Epilogue
Acronyms and Abbreviations
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

C. Bruce Tarter

C. Bruce Tarter is a theoretical physicist who began work at Lawrence Livermore Laboratory as a researcher in 1967. Presently director emeritus, he served as the Lab’s director from 1994 to 2002.