The Cold Wars: A History of Superconductivity

The Cold Wars: A History of Superconductivity - Jean Matricon;Georges Waysand;Charles Glashausser

This book really is a history and a scholarly one, too. It sets the record straight at a number of points, most notably regarding the contribution of Russians during WW2 and the Cold War, and covers the the whole history of superconductivity from the liquifaction of Helium that made its discovery possible, through to 2001. It displays science in all its glory and all its fallible, corruptible humanity, not attempting to disguise the unethical behaviour of individuals where it has been proven or the fiercely competitive nature of top-level research. Any lay-person who wants to know what the real life of scientists is like can do worse than read this book. Unfortunately, superconductivity is an inherently difficult, abstract and quantum phenomenon and despite valiant efforts on the part of the authors, the explanations of the theories as they have evolved in the course of about 100 years are not always clear. This, I suspect, means that anybody with less than a graduate background in physics (or a specialism in quantum chemistry) will have a hard time following the most abstruse arguments.

This is a translation from the French of the original authors but some Gallic flavour is retained, particularly because the authors often make amusing analogies with episodes from French literature.

The people who will like this book most, no doubt, will be superconductivity researchers themselves.