Nucleus and Nation: Scientists, International Networks, and Power in India

In This Review

Nucleus and Nation: Scientists, International Networks, and Power in India
By Robert S. Anderson
University Of Chicago Press, 2010
736 pp. $60.00
Purchase

Anderson explores the untold stories of the 30 or so key scientists behind the Indian nuclear program, from its roots in the formation of an Indian scientific community in the 1920s, through the exploration of peaceful uses of nuclear energy in the late 1940s, to the decision to explore designing a bomb after the first Chinese nuclear test in 1964, and then to the first Indian explosion in 1974. The fruit of nearly 50 years of research and interviewing, the detailed narrative brings the men to life with personal details and a rich understanding of the historical and institutional context. The key figures are physicists such as Homi Bhabha, a multi-talented member of the extended Tata family and first chair of India's Atomic Energy Commission, and his successor, Vikram Sarabhai. Feuding and politicking as scientists do, this elite built up institutes, recruited young scientists, imported equipment and uranium, maintained ties with a global network of peers, and gained the support of wealthy businesspeople and political leaders, especially Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Most of the expertise, equipment, and material needed to build a bomb circulated more or less normally in the scientific community. Taking the next step required only a political decision: once made, cosmopolitan men carried out a nationalist project.