The physicist-entrepreneur Lawrence, together with his colleague S.M. Livingston, is credited with the invention of the cyclotron, the forerunner of the present-day Large Hadron Collider.
The biographer is a journalist, rather than a scientist, so when on p. 2 we read that "Inside the tunnel, 7,600 magnets chilled cryogenically to nearly minus 300 degrees Celsius...", we knew that this book was going to be tough sledding from a scientific point of view. But other than that, it is a very readable and insightful account of the man and politics of his day.
The book reveals Lawrence to be a prototypical managerial-autocratic NPA+ type. It would be a good read for anyone interested in a case study of this type.
* When Livingston had the temerity to approach Lawrence on the issue of credit, or acknowledgement of his role...
The coldness of Ernest's reply was shocking. "I'm running this myself," he said. "If you're unhappy, why, feel free to go on any other project. Because I can get any number of graduate students to do what you are doing..."
* He tried to maintain his usual breezy mien, but it often cracked, producing outbursts of temper over even minor problems. On one occasion, he slapped a Livermore staff member who had questioned his instructions, an unprecedented breach of the Lawrence style... The victim gave notice but was persuaded to stay after Ernest assembled the entire staff to witness his personal apology.