MICHAEL HILTZIK discusses his new book BIG SCIENCE

Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention That Launched the Military-Industrial Complex (Simon and Schuster)

In Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention That Launched the Military-Industrial Complex, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Hiltzik tells the fascinating story of how one man and one invention forever changed the course of scientific research.  Hiltzik explains how science went “big,” built the bombs that helped win World War II, and became dependent on government and industry. He also sheds new light on the forgotten genius who started it all, Ernest Lawrence. 

More than eighty years ago in Berkeley, California, a charming and resourceful young scientist with a talent for physics and perhaps an even greater talent for promotion pondered his new invention and declared: “I’m going to be famous!”  His name was Ernest O. Lawrence.  His invention, the cyclotron, would revolutionize nuclear physics, but that was only the beginning of its impact.  It would transform everything about how science was done, in ways that still matter today.  It would deepen our understanding of the basic building blocks of nature. It would help win World War II.   Its influence would be felt in academia, industry, and international affairs. Its progeny include the atomic bomb and the space program. It was the beginning of Big Science.

Praise for Big Science

“A fascinating biography of a physicist who transformed how science is done.”— Kirkus Reviews

“Hiltzik here tells the fascinating story of how this exceptional scientist won support for his epoch-making research tool and then assembled and managed an unprecedented team of experts who used that tool to penetrate subatomic mysteries.  The continuing relevance of such issues will ensure a wide readership for this biographical inquiry into their origins.”— Booklist

“In this dual history of Lawrence and the movement he single-handedly brought into being, Hiltzik… explains how Lawrence’s postwar research exceeded the budgets of universities and philanthropic foundations, necessitating government patronage… his portrait of Lawrence, who gave birth to the modern research lab through sheer force of will, is powerful.”— Publishers Weekly

“Michael Hiltzik tells an epic story, one with arenas of tragedy as well as triumph, and he tells it well.”— Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian

“Einstein famously formulated new theories of the universe while sitting alone in the patent office in Bern. Today, many endeavors in fundamental research require large budgets, elaborate facilities, and huge staffs. How did science become ‘Big Science’?  In this fascinating book, Michael Hiltzik gives us the inside story of this remarkable metamorphosis. This is a gripping biography of Big Science and of the people who originated it.”— Mario Livio, Astrophysicist, and author of Brilliant Blunders

“20th-century science delivered a series of revolutions, none more instantaneous than the microseconds it took to explode the first atomic bomb. By framing this story—and the development of the cyclotron that made it possible—from the Lawrence/Livermore perspective rather than the Oppenheimer/Los Alamos perspective that has dominated most accounts, Michael Hiltzik sheds fresh light on the transition from small science to big science that we take for granted today. Especially timely is a fascinating account of Lawrence’s attempt to return to small science: how do you encourage a small group of scientists to produce big results, rather than the other way around?”— George Dyson, author of Turing's Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe

Michael Hiltzik is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author who has covered business, technology, and public policy for the Los Angeles Times for more than twenty years.  He currently serves as the Times’s business columnist.  His previous books include Colossus: The Turbulent, Thrilling Saga of the Building of Hoover Dam and The New Deal: A Modern History. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Hiltzik’s other awards include the 2004 Gerald Loeb Award for outstanding business commentary and the Silver Gavel from the American Bar Association for outstanding legal reporting.  He is a graduate of Colgate University and the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University and lives with his family in Southern California.

Photo by Amy Meyers

Event date: 
Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - 7:30pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention That Launched the Military-Industrial Complex Cover Image
ISBN: 9781451675757
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Simon & Schuster - July 7th, 2015

The New Deal: A Modern History Cover Image
ISBN: 9781439154496
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Published: Free Press - May 8th, 2012

Colossus: The Turbulent, Thrilling Saga of the Building of Hoover Dam Cover Image
ISBN: 9781416532170
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Published: Free Press - May 3rd, 2011

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ISBN: 9780887309892
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