True Genius: The Life and Work of Richard Garwin, the Most Influential Scientist You've Never Heard of

Joel Shurkin

This book appeared in Advance Copy, a column in which NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here. Publication of NASW members’ reports in Advance Copy does not indicate NASW’s endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments, and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions. To join the discussion or submit your book, visit Advance Copy.

Called a "true genius" by Enrico Fermi, Richard Garwin has influenced modern life in far-reaching ways, yet he is hardly known outside the physics community. This is the first biography of one of America's great minds — a top physicist, a brilliant technological innovator, and a trusted adviser of presidents for sixty years. Among his many contributions to modern technology are innovations we now take for granted: air-traffic control systems, touch screens, color monitors, laser printers, GPS satellite navigation, and many other facets of everyday contemporary life.

But certainly his most important work has been on behalf of nuclear disarmament. As a key member of the Los Alamos team that developed the hydrogen bomb (he created the final design), Garwin subsequently devoted much of his career to ensuring that nuclear weapons never again be used. He has spent hundreds of hours testifying before Congress, serving on government advisory committees, and doing work that is still classified, all the while working for IBM as a researcher.

A genuine polymath, his ideas extend from propulsion systems for interplanetary flight to preventing flu epidemics. Never shy about offering his opinions, even to rigid government bureaucracies unwilling to change, Garwin continues to show leaders how to do the smart thing. The world is a more interesting and safer place because of his many accomplishments.