Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics


10 thoughts on “Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler

  1. Brian Clegg Brian Clegg says:

    Subtitled the struggle for the soul of physics , Philip Ball s book takes us deep into the conflicted and conflicting stories of how German physicists responded to the growing power of the Nazis, their attitude to Jews, and their responses to the strictures of the Second World War.In principle Ball does this by examining the lives and work of three physicists the old guard Max Planck, a Dutch immigrant Peter Debye, and the seemingly amoral Werner Heisenberg but in practice we see the impa Subtitled the struggle for the soul of physics , Philip Ball s book takes us deep into the conflicted and conflicting stories of how German physicists responded to the growing power of the Nazis, their attitude to Jews, and their responses to the strictures of the Second World War.In principle Ball does this by examining the lives and work of three physicists the old guard Max Planck, a Dutch immigrant Peter Debye, and the seemingly amoral Werner Heisenberg but in practice we see the impact of the regime and culture on many other physicists from intense supporters of the Nazis to those who did their best to oppose the regime.Over the years these German scientists have been portrayed as everything from enthusiastic supporters of the Third Reich to secret saboteurs who did all they could to slow down the German development of nuclear weapons Ball resolutely refuses to paint them either black or white, instead giving us every possible detail of shades of grey.This is, without doubt, the fairest and most honest approach, given the lack of concrete information, but sometimes Ball s concern to remain neutral and portray history as it was, rather than the usual as the historian wants it to be can make the book a bit of a hard slog Reading a Philip Ball book is a bit like attending a lecture by a scientist who absolutely knows his stuff, and is prepared to go off on lots of interesting side diversions, but nonetheless is very pernickety and precise, insisting on weighing everything up from every possible angle, so that just sometimes not only is the moral position of the scientists entirely grey, so is the storytelling.This is a fascinating period in the history of physics, and it is indeed interesting to see how these well known and less well known characters played their part Often the answer is in a human, if rather detached, way wanting as much as possible to get on with life, even if it meant ignoring some difficult truths There is a feeling that somehow scientists should beable to face reality but in fact, in many ways they can be evenwithdrawn than a typical citizen Either way, with such ambiguous circumstances, combined with attempts after the war to modify the record to make things look less unpleasant, the result is inevitably a messy history that can never definitively tell us what happened So don t expect to come out of this with a clear picture but do expect to know a lotabout the thinking of these key figures outside of their work in physics


  2. Nacho Martín Nacho Martín says:

    Un libro de pobre gente que, adem s, son f sicos, pero sobre todo son pobre gente que no hace pr cticamente nada con alguna excepci n respecto a los nazis Muchas p ginas muy bien documentadas analizando cartas, discursos, el testimonio de alguien que pasaba por all , alguien que oy algo, buscando si hay alguna traza de no estar conforme con el r gimen nazi, o de ser antisemita No sabemos, quiz s , quiz no, quiz esta expresi n denote que era un poquit n nazi y en general a uno le deja Un libro de pobre gente que, adem s, son f sicos, pero sobre todo son pobre gente que no hace pr cticamente nada con alguna excepci n respecto a los nazis Muchas p ginas muy bien documentadas analizando cartas, discursos, el testimonio de alguien que pasaba por all , alguien que oy algo, buscando si hay alguna traza de no estar conforme con el r gimen nazi, o de ser antisemita No sabemos, quiz s , quiz no, quiz esta expresi n denote que era un poquit n nazi y en general a uno le deja la sensaci n de que eran todos pobre gente, que a veces se imaginaban que hac an algo en un sentido o en otro, pero que no hac an mucho Y claro, la pregunta es siempre acaso habr a hecho usted m s, se habr a alzado contra el Tercer Reich Pues desde luego despu s de leer este libro no, porque te deja el esp ritu chafado, listo para fre r un sanjacobo congelado y poco m s.El remate de la pena es Heisenberg encargado de las investigaciones at micas, que ni sabe cu nto se tardar a en hacer una bomba, ni sabe cu nto uranio har a falta y est perdido Le capturan y ni se plantea que le hayan puesto micr fonos en la habitaci n Luego ve la bomba de Hiroshima y cree que es un cuento, que no es posible que la hayan construido los americanos Y al final penurias de posguerra intentando convencer de que estuvo poniendo palos en las ruedas de Hitler cuando resulta que no consigui hacer la bomba porque no vio claro que pudiese conseguirlo.Salvando a los f sicos tiene reflexiones que valen la pena, como esta Esta perspectiva cuasi m stica de la teor a cu ntica que los f sicos parecieron alentar se acoplaba al reciente rechazo, durante la era de Weimar, de los supuestos males del materialismo el comercialismo, la avaricia y la invasi n de la tecnolog a o El culto cosificado a la naturaleza que es lo contrario a respetarla , siempre ha estado al borde de una ideolog a fundamentalmente fascista.Y otras cuestiones como si el alem n es capaz de tener una libertad personal, ntima, introspectiva, generar un mundo interior en el que es libre, mientras a la vez es absolutamente obediente a la ley Si el alem n es capaz de hacer esto y por tanto capaz de una sumisi n total al orden mientras conserva un espacio interior, un mundo dentro de su teutona cabeza.De estas perlas hay varias por aqu y por all , y uno se las apunta y sale mejor de lo que entr.Uno acaba con la certeza de que habr a sido mucho mejor, y m s f cil, que estos f sicos se hubieran dedicado a lo que realmente Hitler y Himmler quer an investigar, que es la sandez de la Cosmogon a Glacial El Hielo C smico, una tontada que te conecta con los atlantes Si algunos f sicos, en lugar de estar ah debati ndose entre si firmar las cartas con Heil Hitler o no, se hubieran entregado en cuerpo y alma a la gilipollez del Hielo C smico todo habr a ido bien Sus superiores, encantados contribuci n a la ventaja nazi en la guerra, cero o negativa, y habr an dejado una bonita historia, porque es una pena muy grande que pongas a un chorro de premios Nobel en un libro con nazis y te salgan tan pochos


  3. Danièle Danièle says:

    I m sorry that I m not able to rate this bookhighly It is well researched, addresses an important topic, and made me think a lot about things that have been and things that currently are But it just isn t that well written, such a shame.Historical books whether fact or fiction can suffer from the need to introduce a multitude of characters that can be hard to tell apart due to the fact that we are concentrating on what they did, rather than who they were I found this a particul I m sorry that I m not able to rate this bookhighly It is well researched, addresses an important topic, and made me think a lot about things that have been and things that currently are But it just isn t that well written, such a shame.Historical books whether fact or fiction can suffer from the need to introduce a multitude of characters that can be hard to tell apart due to the fact that we are concentrating on what they did, rather than who they were I found this a particular problem in the first half of Hilary Mantel s Wolf Hall, compounded by the fact that they all seemed to be called Thomas In this particular instance we are following what happened in the world of German physics throughout the 1920s, 30s and 40s There were a lot of very eminent physicists about in Germany in that time, doing very clever things that even as a chemist I struggle to understand all of And while many Planck, Haber, Debye, Heisenberg, Einstein, Schrodinger are famous enough in the world of science, the multitude of additional figures who I had not previously heard of made it rather difficult, over the course of the book, to tell one s Laue from one s Weizsacker from one s Franck, and to remember who had done, said or intended what In a book that discusses the actions of these people under the Nazi regime including to what extent they might have sympathised with the removal of Jews from the field of science being able to remember who s who is a matter of great import Even a section of short profiles as an appendix would have been a useful reference point.An additional problem is that there is no clear signal to the reader at the beginning of the book, or even throughout the early chapters, what the line of the story is going to be The old adage of non fiction writing say what you are going to say, say it, say what you have said has gone out of the window here Chapters launch into topics without a clear indication of where they are going, jumping around the chronology, revisiting figures and events at different points in the text, ultimately causing a great deal of confusion I m not one to put down a non fiction book as there is always something to learn this book, indeed, has much to offer but I can imagine a less persistent reader, particularly one without a science background, giving up.That is such a shame because, as I said, this is an important subject, and Ball has clearly done his research very well The subject is important for many reasons Firstly, because it illustrates the importance of science particularly physics in World War II The development of the atomic bomb was of crucial import in the development and final ending of the war, and it could so easily have been the other side who got there first Secondly, it is important because it examines the actions of the Nazi party in excising Jewish scientists from scientific practice, and the extent to which the remaining scientific community may have colluded with, resisted or ignored this process The important thing for me is that it is so hard to judge in retrospect These people cannot be judged against our own current standards, with our benefit of hindsight, and the greater freedom in our culture I m speaking as a pretty gobby UK citizen to speak out against authority Ball actually does a very good job of presenting different sides of the argument, but leaving it to the reader to come to their own conclusion I can say that this leads to very good book group discussions Finally, this book makes the point that what happened in the German physics community in that period cannot be seen as a contained thing, a product of its time and place that would not happen again Rather, the point is that science while it presents itself as objective, free from political interference, free from bias is inextricably linked with society Science is performed by people, and people are influenced by other people, by ideology, by their private motivations, by fears and dreams Science can never be free from that, which is important to remember


  4. Davide Nole Davide Nole says:

    The book is quite interesting, and its aim is to write a definitive account on the situation of three major figures in both Quantum Physics and Germany Both Plack and Heisenberg are studied extensively in other books and magazines, but it s the first time I ve read an account on Debye as well, probably because he s one of the most controversial physicists who have worked under the regime Overall the book is well written and addresses both questions about physics and history, trying to cast a l The book is quite interesting, and its aim is to write a definitive account on the situation of three major figures in both Quantum Physics and Germany Both Plack and Heisenberg are studied extensively in other books and magazines, but it s the first time I ve read an account on Debye as well, probably because he s one of the most controversial physicists who have worked under the regime Overall the book is well written and addresses both questions about physics and history, trying to cast a light on the most important aspects of quantum mechanics The fact that it deals only with those aspects that are necessary to the dissertation is a plus, for me, as the other phenomena, despite their obvious physical importance, are of no use for a discussion about politics The only problem I could find in the book is that the approach is quite repetitive, thus it ends up being a bit boring after a while, especially if you know already a big chunk of what the author is talking about


  5. Fernando del Alamo Fernando del Alamo says:

    Este libro est centrado en la historia de un personaje, un Premio Nobel de F sica llamado Peter Debye Todo esto suced a en tiempos de Hitler Todos aquellos f sicos, aquellos cient ficos de esa poca, trabajaban realmente para su pa s Y las cosas que hac an ten an repercusi n en la guerra Entonces, el autor no para de preguntarse si realmente la ciencia es apol tica y podemos separar a los cient ficos del resto del mundo en estos aspectos Es criticable que aquellos cient ficos alemanes trab Este libro est centrado en la historia de un personaje, un Premio Nobel de F sica llamado Peter Debye Todo esto suced a en tiempos de Hitler Todos aquellos f sicos, aquellos cient ficos de esa poca, trabajaban realmente para su pa s Y las cosas que hac an ten an repercusi n en la guerra Entonces, el autor no para de preguntarse si realmente la ciencia es apol tica y podemos separar a los cient ficos del resto del mundo en estos aspectos Es criticable que aquellos cient ficos alemanes trabajaran para su pa s en tiempos del Reich Desde el sof y la seguridad de nuestras casas, es f cil criticarlos pero como dice el autor, a ver qui n es el que levanta la mano y afirma que lo hubiera hecho en aquellos tiempos mejor que ellos.Es un libro muy riguroso, con numerosas fuentes y bien informado y los dos cap tulos finales, donde extrae las conclusiones son absolutamente maravillosos por su argumentaci n.Si eres amante de la historia de la ciencia, este libro te gustar


  6. Freca Freca says:

    Interessante e ben documentato, esposto in modo chiaro e preciso


  7. Robert Robert says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Philip Ball s book, Serving the Reich The Struggle for the Soul of Physics Under Hitler It examines the relationship between science and politics through the lens of the actions of Peter Debye, Max Planck, and Werner Heisenberg during the backdrop of Nazi Germany Ball notes, None of these three men were enthusiastic about Hitler s regime, yet all were leaders and guides of German science managerially, intellectually, and inspirationally and they each played a major I thoroughly enjoyed Philip Ball s book, Serving the Reich The Struggle for the Soul of Physics Under Hitler It examines the relationship between science and politics through the lens of the actions of Peter Debye, Max Planck, and Werner Heisenberg during the backdrop of Nazi Germany Ball notes, None of these three men were enthusiastic about Hitler s regime, yet all were leaders and guides of German science managerially, intellectually, and inspirationally and they each played a major part in setting the tone of the physics community s response to the Nazi era p.5 It struck me that the regime in Nazi Germany arose because educated and concerned people lacked the will to take action to stop itbefore it was too late This situation in the mid 1930s seems to have parallels to the challenges President Obama faces as ISIS emerges in the Middle East to replace the remnants of Al Qaida Is it too late to stop such evil from rearing its ugly head again Ball highlights, The encroachment of Nazi ideology in physics was not a state sanctioned enterprise but an ultimately fruitless attempt at self promotion by a few eminent yet embittered individuals Political sycophants, who were generally poor performing scientists, came to positions of authority in German science and by 1935, 1 in 5 German scientists or 1 in 4 physicists had been dismissed Ball adds, The Nazis insisted not just on who did science, but on what science was done Jewish scientists could not practice science and such religious intolerance forced scientists, such as Albert Einstein, to leave Germany for America He wrote, on April 5, 1933, I did not wish to live in a country where the individual does not enjoy equality before the law, and freedom of speech and trainingp.76 Anti semitism was rampant in nearby German speaking Austria too Chelsea Wald, wrote in SCIENCE, in March 2013, The Austrian Academy of Sciences may have been particularly hostile to Jews and nonconformists even before the Nazis arrived, said historian Mitchell Ash of the University of Vienna After the Anschluss the annexation of Austria to Germany in March 1938 , only 9% of the regular members were forced out on racial or political grounds, while nearly half of the University s faculty members were dismissed That means membership was not entirely based on meritocratic, but also on folkish and anti Semitic criteria, even before the Nazi ideology took over, Ash said The Nazis were bad for Germany and Austria, and the Nazi regime was bad for German science too.After World War II, many scientists remained in denial over what happened, including the horrors of the Nazi treatment of prisoners and even the Holocaust Werner Heisenberg, of Uncertainty Principle fame, exemplifies this denial of the past He was apt to refer to the bad side of Nazism, as Ball writes, with the implication that there was a good side too Heisenberg argued that the Nazis would have become civilized if they had won the war give or take 50 years What compels highly trained people to ignore the atrocities around them Ball believes, in this case, What seems most to have compromised Heisenberg was a craving for approval even that of a corrupt regime whose methods and principles he disdained Maybe keeping your nose to the grindstone and waiting for kudos is not the way to halt evil in its tracks Elder statesmen in the physics community, Max Planck, was paralysed by a predicament for which his conservative education had never prepared him He is, as Ball depicts,a genuinely tragic figure Planck found it difficult to challenge authority in a German society were maintaining structure and taking orders unquestioningly from the political leadership was ingrained.Meanwhile, a solid scientist like Peter Debye was simply an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances The question Ball asks, What could Planck, Heisenberg, and Debye done differently As it turns out, nothing I recommend that this period piece about 1930s era scientists dealing with an oppressive regime be read It forces us to think about what we would do in such circumstances It brought to light some notions that Ball attempts to address for us and the global scientific community of the 21st century 1 It s a delusion of some scientists that reason and moral virtue go hand in hand.2 Scientific training rarely incorporates an ethical dimension Enjoy the read


  8. Mishehu Mishehu says:

    A nuanced essay on a subject of great relevance Ball is less sparkling a historian of science than he is a science popularizer But he s certainly a thoughtful one, and the book in review is important I didn t learn much reading it that I wasn t aware of already, but I was encouraged to a subtler andcritical reading of the facts than I d previously done For that, kudos to the author.


  9. David David says:

    Never really got into to this, i found the decision to jump back and forth in time in Chapters a bit of an irritation when maybe a straight linear telling of the events would have been a better choice Also the constant quarreling, and back and forth letter writing between scientist s, lecturer s, University chiefs became very tiresome, and felt a bit trite and meaningless given the circumstances of the time I understand at the time the letters were written they weren t fully aware of the horro Never really got into to this, i found the decision to jump back and forth in time in Chapters a bit of an irritation when maybe a straight linear telling of the events would have been a better choice Also the constant quarreling, and back and forth letter writing between scientist s, lecturer s, University chiefs became very tiresome, and felt a bit trite and meaningless given the circumstances of the time I understand at the time the letters were written they weren t fully aware of the horrors to come I think i was expecting a different book and so gave up after Chapter 7


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Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler Serving the Reich tells the story of physics under Hitler While some scientists tried to create an Aryan physics that excluded any Jewish ideas , many others made compromises and concessions as they continued to work under the Nazi regime Among them were three world renowned physicists Max Planck, pioneer of quantum theory, regarded it as his moral duty to carry on under the regimePeter Debye, a Dutch physicist, rose to run the Reich s most important research institute before leaving for the United States in Werner Heisenberg, discovered the Uncertainty Principle, and became the leading figure in Germany s race for the atomic bombAfter the war most scientists in Germany maintained they had been apolitical or even resisted the regime Debye claimed that he had gone to America to escape Nazi interference in his research Heisenberg and others argued that they had deliberately delayed production of the atomic bombMixing history, science and biography, Serving the Reich is a gripping exploration of moral choices under a totalitarian regime Here are human dilemmas, failures to take responsibility, three lives caught between the idealistic goals of science and a tyrannical ideology ❮Reading❯ ➸ Gender in Psychoanalytic Space Author Muriel Dimen – Kleankitchen.co.uk many others made compromises and concessions as they continued to work under the Nazi regime Among them were three world renowned physicists Max Planck [Download] ➽ Insight and Interpretation ➺ Roy Schafer – Kleankitchen.co.uk pioneer of quantum theory [EPUB] ✵ Good People in an Evil Time Author Svetlana Broz – Kleankitchen.co.uk regarded it as his moral duty to carry on under the regimePeter Debye [Read] ➵ On a Day Like This ➼ Peter Stamm – Kleankitchen.co.uk a Dutch physicist ⚦ [PDF] ✎ Heart to Start By Derek Handley ✶ – Kleankitchen.co.uk rose to run the Reich s most important research institute before leaving for the United States in Werner Heisenberg [PDF / Epub] ☉ Light without Fire By Scott Korb – Kleankitchen.co.uk discovered the Uncertainty Principle [Epub] ❧ Secrecy ➛ Rupert Thomson – Kleankitchen.co.uk and became the leading figure in Germany s race for the atomic bombAfter the war most scientists in Germany maintained they had been apolitical or even resisted the regime Debye claimed that he had gone to America to escape Nazi interference in his research Heisenberg and others argued that they had deliberately delayed production of the atomic bombMixing history [BOOKS] ✸ The Silence and the Roar ⚦ Nihad Sirees – Kleankitchen.co.uk science and biography ❃ Hard Country kindle Epub ❧ Author Robin Robilliard – Kleankitchen.co.uk Serving the Reich is a gripping exploration of moral choices under a totalitarian regime Here are human dilemmas ❰Reading❯ ➶ The Whale Rider Author Witi Ihimaera – Kleankitchen.co.uk failures to take responsibility [PDF / Epub] ★ The Impossible David Lynch By Todd McGowan – Kleankitchen.co.uk three lives caught between the idealistic goals of science and a tyrannical ideology


About the Author: Philip Ball

Philip Ball born 1962 is an English science writer He holds a degree in chemistry from Oxford and a doctorate in physics from Bristol University He was an editor for the journal Nature for over 10 years He now writes a regular column in Chemistry World Ball s most popular book is the 2004 Critical Mass How One Things Leads to Another, winner of the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books It examines a wide range of topics including the business cycle, random walks, phase transitions, bifurcation theory, traffic flow, Zipf s law, Small world phenomenon, catastrophe theory, the Prisoner s dilemma The overall theme is one of applying modern mathematical models to social and economic phenomena.