The Invention that Changed the World, by Robert Buderi, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1996, $30.
This is the intriguing story of the origins of radar and the men who contributed to its development over the years from just before World War II to the present. It seems that radar was an idea whose time had come, because it was invented within a time span of five or six years in a number of countries during the late 1930s. The United States, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Italy, the Soviet Union and France all possessed some recognizable form of radar going into World War II, though America and Great Britain had a clear technological lead and managed to keep that advantage throughout the war.
There are a number of interesting aspects to this book that make it appealing to a wide audience. There are stories of World War II combat missions and sea and air battles in which radar played a decisive role, interspersed with the personal stories of the scientists and engineers who struggled to bring radar from laboratory to field use under the pressure of wartime conditions. There is just enough technical terminology to catch the interest of those readers with a technical bent, allowing them to follow the technical evolution of solutions to various problems, while not putting off those who simply want to read a good story.
Buderi, a successful freelance technical writer, has done an excellent job of putting the story of this invention between the covers of one book in a way that manages to entertain as well as inform.
John I. Witmer