Other Sellers on Amazon
Escape from Earth: A Secret History of the Space Rocket Audio CD – June 25, 2019
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
About the Author
Fraser MacDonald is a lecturer in human geography at the University of Edinburgh where he teaches historical geography and the history of science. He has a regular by-line at the London Guardian and has also written for Aeon Magazine, The Herald, The Age, The Australian, the LRB Books blog, among other publications.
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
The major revelation of this book, though, isn't that the history has mostly been forgotten, but WHY it has mostly been forgotten. MacDonald, through exhaustive research (including access to previously-unseen FBI files and the private, family documents of the central players) reveals that being on the right side of science doesn't necessarily put you on the right side of history. Or more accurately, the right side of prevailing ideologies about Great Men and American-ness.
MacDonald carries off this ambitious project (it IS literally rocket science!) with seamless organization and an ever-present punchy wit. It isn't often that a non-fiction scientific history can make you laugh out loud. I LOLed repeatedly while reading this. During the chapter about the involvement of a CalTech scientist with the Über quirky OTO cult, I did a spit-take with my tea.
I'd rank this book right alongside The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in the canon of great histories of science. Like Skloot's book, Escape from Earth reveals that there's no such thing as pure science. When it comes to humans and their tangled motivations, there's no easy escape.
The aspects MacDonald dwells on earn high marks. As he states in his final chapter “this makes for a messy history.” The messy parts include the interactions among some of the principals and their battles with the self-defeating politics and policies of the time. Other histories and GALCIT reports are complements; they dwell on the brilliance and historic importance of the of aerospace achievements and prophesies by von Kármán, Malina, Summerfield, Hsue-Shen Tsien, A. M. O. Smith, et al during the hectic WW2 interval. We can only wonder what the United States might have been accomplished if chaos had not been inflicted.
Turns out the book devotes only a dozen or so pages to rocketry. As pointed out in other reviews, the author documents the lifelong impacts to those Caltech scientists who joined Unit 122 of the Communist Party in the late 30s. While interesting, there's little rocket science in this book.
Top international reviews
At times the lives in this book seems to delve into unbelievably weird worlds, but the author never loses sight of the achievements they made.
A fascinating read of some incredible characters whom history has largely forgotten and yet to whom we owe a huge debt of technological gratitude - even if we find some of the stranger things in their private lives alarmingly unusual.