Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Getting their due

A couple of new books that highlight women's roles in World War II, notably the New York Times bestseller The Girls of Atomic City.  Denise Kiernan focuses on a secret city created in Tennessee, where a predominantly women work crew the enriched uranium for the United States' nuclear program.  According to Kiernan, the women had no idea what they were working on, which I suppose avoided any moral ambiguity.  Reviews are light, but it seems Kiernan is aiming at a broad audience, focusing more on the women's individual stories than the program itself.

Rocket Girl, the story of Mary Sherman Morgan, appears to have gone straight to paperback.  Morgan was the first American woman rocket scientist, and had a better idea what was going on during the war, as she was designing explosives.   She switched to rocket propellants after the war and her research led to a fuel capable of putting rockets into orbit.  One of the unsung heroes of the early Explorer program.

Morgan's story brings to mind that of Hedy Lamarr, who is today recognized for helping to develop a missile guidance system, which is also used in cell phone technology.  She worked on the system of "frequency hopping" with her husband, George Antheil, a pianist.  Richard Rhodes, famous for his book, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, wrote a book on Hedy's Folly in 2011, which looks like it would be a lot of fun to read.

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