Book ID: CBB001422033

Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler (2014)


Ball, Philip (Author)

University of Chicago Press

Publication Date: 2014
Physical Details: pp.; ill.; bibl.; index
Language: English

After World War II, most scientists in Germany maintained that they had been apolitical or actively resisted the Nazi regime, but the true story is much more complicated. In Serving the Reich, Philip Ball takes a fresh look at that controversial history, contrasting the career of Peter Debye, director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin, with those of two other leading physicists in Germany during the Third Reich: Max Planck, the elder statesman of physics after whom Germany's premier scientific society is now named, and Werner Heisenberg, who succeeded Debye as director of the institute when it became focused on the development of nuclear power and weapons. Mixing history, science, and biography, Ball's gripping exploration of the lives of scientists under Nazism offers a powerful portrait of moral choice and personal responsibility, as scientists navigated “the grey zone between complicity and resistance.” Ball's account of the different choices these three men and their colleagues made shows how there can be no clear-cut answers or judgement of their conduct. Yet, despite these ambiguities, Ball makes it undeniable that the German scientific establishment as a whole mounted no serious resistance to the Nazis, and in many ways acted as a willing instrument of the state. Serving the Reich considers what this problematic history can tell us about the relationship of science and politics today. Ultimately, Ball argues, a determination to present science as an abstract inquiry into nature that is “above politics” can leave science and scientists dangerously compromised and vulnerable to political manipulation.

Reviewed By

Review Klaus Hentschel (2015) Review of "Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler". Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology (pp. 276-277). unapi

Review Jon Agar (2015) Review of "Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler". Canadian Journal of History (pp. 341-343). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Gadioli, Ettore
Cioci, Vincenzo
Peter de Jong
Dahn, Ryan
Mark Postlethwaite
Bini, Elisabetta
Physics in Perspective
Science and Education
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte
Annals of Science: The History of Science and Technology
Pavia University Press
Oxford University Press
Osprey Publishing
Washington State University Press
Wallstein Verlag
World War II
Science and war; science and the military
Nuclear weapons; atomic weapons
Science and politics
Science and society
Heisenberg, Werner
Planck, Max
Einstein, Albert
Hahn, Otto (1879-1968)
Simon, Franz
Weinberg, Alvin Martin
Time Periods
20th century
20th century, early
19th century
United States
Hiroshima-shi (Japan)
Leipzig (Germany)
Luftwaffe (Germany)
Kriegsmarine (Germany)
Hanford Nuclear Site (Washington)
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory
Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory
Universität Leipzig

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