For the first time in history, humans are learning to produce and control nuclear energy—the energy that, in the form of sunlight, has served humankind for its entire existence. With fossil fuel supplies dwindling, concerned citizens, no matter how scant their scientific knowledge, must understand this enormous force.

Isaac Asimov is uniquely equipped to tell the story of nuclear energy to the public. In the kind of lucid explanation for which he is famous, he covers the entire complex subject in this book—its history, its theory, the individuals who have made significant contributions to our knowledge—everything from the ancient Greek notion of the atom to the developing and mysterious concept of “antimatter.”

This book is exactly what it claims to be—a history of nuclear power. It does a good job and covers the material well. It’s a bit dated now, but serviceable.

The main problem is that it’s a subject Asimov covers extensively in other books, so the whole thing seems somehow unnecessary—but that’s a weak objection. I’d certainly hand it to a teenager who wanted to know something more extensive than How Did We Find Out About Nuclear Power? provides without the other information to be found in, say, Asimov’s New Guide to Science.

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