||Manhattan Project to the Santa Fe Institute: The Memoirs of George A. Cowan, by George A.
Cowan. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico
Press, 2010, cloth, 175pp., $27.95.
George A. Cowan is one of the very few men and
women still living who brought "the Atomic
Age" into being. He was a sophomore student
at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in 1938 when
the announcement appeared in the newspapers that
German scientists had just produced nuclear fission.
Cowan cut out the historic announcement from
his paper and brought the article to class. His
professor then gave a lecture on the subject,
concluding that the use of fission to build a
bomb was unlikely.
After earning his undergraduate degree in chemistry,
Cowan went on to Princeton for graduate work
where he was invited to join the university's
cyclotron research program. By now, two World
Wars were raging, one in Europe with the Germans,
the other in the Pacific with the Japanese.
Meantime, the top secret "Manhattan Project" was
underway at the University of Chicago. Manhattan's
object was to create nuclear fission that might
be used to build a bomb like no other the world
had ever seen, and to accomplish it before the
In 1942 Princeton's cyclotron scientists were
moved to Chicago to join Manhattan. Cowan was
one of this group. He remained in Chicago until
after the project successfully produced controlled
fission (of all places, in a pile placed under
the University of Chicago football stadium, presumably
where spies would be least likely to notice).
It is indeed a historic site, in importance not
unlike White Sands in New Mexico where the first
bomb was actually tested. About 1956 I visited
the Manhattan site myself.
When the project was completed at the University
of Chicago, Cowan moved to Los Alamos National
Laboratory where he remained at work in research
in nuclear chemistry and physics for nearly forty
years. Late in life he was a founder of the Santa
Fe Institute, a community of students devoted
to discussing ways of "finding common ground" between
the worlds of natural science and of general
human affairs, a most difficult subject, more
difficult probably than developing nuclear fission.
This is a book that students of the nuclear
age will want to read. Cowan knew what went
on. He knew the processes themselves, and
he knew the great names of the time, those who
developed the knowledge that produced the terrors
of the bomb and the human horrors of our age
-- the Oppenheimers, the Edward Tellers, and
many others. ~ DR
||The Crash of TWA Flight
260, by Charles M.
Williams. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico
Press, 2010, pbk., 250pp.
At 7:O5 a. m. on the morning of February 19,
1955, Trans World Airlines flight # 260 departed
Albuquerque airport. She carried thirteen passengers
and her normal crew of three: Captain Ivan
Spong, First Officer Jesse J. Creason, and Flight
Hostess Sharon Schoening. The aircraft was a
Martin 404 "Skyliner," a
popular twin engine, nose wheel type of her day,
a smaller partner to the Lockheed Constellation,
the famous "Connie," the big four engine
airliner. Flight # 260 had begun in San Francisco
the day before, with a stop in Las Vegas, and
an overnight with a crew change in Albuquerque.
Her flight plan would take her to Santa Fe and
eventually to Baltimore, where she would turn about
to retrace her way to San Francisco. The flight
was regularly scheduled, the aircraft proven, the
captain had flown thousands of hours. The weather
this morning though was unusually thick. Heavy
clouds with rain and snow blocked the sky toward
the north. High winds buffeted the surface. The
lower foothills to the east were visible, but the
Sandia Mountains were not.
Tower sent # 260 off on runway one one toward
the southeast. After lift off, she was to bank
around to a northwesterly heading at 9,000 feet
until she cleared the north end of the Sandia
Mountains. Maintaining that altitude, she was to
turn northeasterly into Santa Fe for landing. Flight
altitude was considerably lower than the high ridge
of the Sandia Mountains. Since visibility would
be zero, the flight had to be IFR, on instruments.
The pilots could see little or nothing out the
At least two people last saw # 260 airborne.
Three minutes after takeoff, airport Ground Service
Help saw her flying east a half mile north of the
airport. Seconds later, an Air Force colonel, who
happened to be standing out in front of his house,
saw her a mile and a half northeast of the airport.
He remembered noting at the time that if she was
eastbound, she was too low to clear the Sandias,
and if northbound, she had to be off course.
At just seconds after 7:12 a. m., Tower called
# 260 to confirm her position in order to clear
another flight for takeoff. Tower called repeatedly, "TWA
260. ABQ Approach Control. Over!" Pause. "TWA
260. ABQ Approach Control. Over!" There was
no answer. By then, just seven minutes and a
few seconds after takeoff, the pilots had banked
their Skyliner hard left and raised her nose
to drive her head on into a craggy pinnacle of
the Sandia Mountains. Minutes later she was reported
overdue at Santa Fe.
Immediately began a monumental search followed
by years of investigations. Fifty-five years
later, the persistence of a handful of doubters
would finally answer the questions and would produce
this unusual book, a full-scale study of the
many, many facets of a modern airline disaster.
At first, the CAB report had it all wrong. Pilots
Spong and Creason were even accused by some of
purposely committing suicide and taking their passengers
with them. But the long time commitment of a
fellow TWA captain, Larry DeCelles, and of the
author of this book, among others, finally cleared
the crew of fault; and the crash was at last charged
to a known design problem in essential equipment
aboard this aircraft and others of her time.
Frightening? Yes. If you're a pilot, or if you
enjoy flying, read this book to see for yourself.
It's an experience you won't want to miss. ~ DR
||Arena Legacy: The Heritage
of American Rodeo,
by Richard C. Rattenbury. Norman: University
of Oklahoma Press, 2010, 416 pp, 620 color and
b/w plates, $ 65.
This is the most impressive book ever published
on rodeo, the West’s contribution to sporting
contests worldwide! Drawing on the vast collections
of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
in Oklahoma City, Arena Legacy traces the history
of the sport from its beginnings in Spanish, Mexican,
and California cow culture to the National Finals
contest, the World’s Series of rodeo.
The major feature of the book is its brilliant array
of photos. Opening with snapshots of cowboy Clay
Wilkes on a wild-eyed steer; and cowgirls Bessie
and Ruby Dickey at a rodeo in Tucumcari about 1918,
the photographic display continues with plates of
contestants, their equipment, and the trophies they
won over the span of a hundred years: saddles, spurs,
chaps, boots, ropes, buckles, trophy cups, and Stetson
hats of the cowboys and cowgirls. The huge ten and
twelve-inch book weighs four pounds!
Renowned New Mexico champions are here: Charmayne
James, all-time winning female athlete, appears on
her special horse, Scamper. Ropers Troy Fort and
Bob Crosby on his horse Nickel; Homer Pettigrew,
maybe the top steer wrestler of all time; Everett
Bowman, world all-around Champ and president of the
first Cowboys’ Union; and three Coopers ---
Tuffy, Roy, and Jimmie.
Whether you rodeo yourself, or just love to watch
the action from the bleachers, get this book. For
cow people, there’s nothing like it! You’ll
be glad you did, and your kids and grandkids will
Order OU Press Books by calling 1-800-627-7377
Or online from ~ www.oupress.com
||From Cochise to Geronimo: The Chiricahua
Apaches, 1874-1886, by Edwin R. Sweeney.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010,
cloth, 706 pp, $39.95
This new book answers vital questions about
the late 19th century Chiricahua Apaches in southern
New Mexico, Eastern Arizona, and West Texas. It is
the third, and last, of a trilogy by Edwin R. Sweeney,
the great student of the Chiricahua people and the
author of Cochise (1991) and Mangas
Sweeney argues convincingly that Office of Indian
Affairs stupidity and bungling caused the Chiricahuas'
increasing hostility toward settlers, miners and
soldiers after 1874. Having settled them on two
reservations in their homelands --- Ojo Caliente
in eastern New Mexico and Chiricahua in southeastern
Arizona --- Indian Affairs, for the sake of "efficiency" decided
to settle ALL the People on the hated San Carlos
Reservations between Fort Thomas and Globe, Arizona.
First, this move forced them out of their mountainous
homelands. Second, it settled bands that were traditional
enemies, side by side. Third, it put hundreds of
them on the Gila Flats --- the Gila River flows
across the southern San Carlos Reservation ---
where they died from mosquito-borne malaria, unknown
in their beloved high country.
And fourth, corrupt Indian Affairs agents and
inspectors spent more time prospecting for precious
metals than looking out for their charges. After
the move to San Carlos, Apaches literally fought
in order to die until Geronimo finally surrendered
them. Later, the People were "removed" to
prisons in the East. Perhaps the greatest value
of this book though, is the new information it
offers from Sweeney's remarkably extensive research
in Mexican and American archives, some only recently
opened to historians.
OU Press has just released this essential book.
Interested in the Apache story? Buy a copy while
you can get a first edition, first printing. Enjoy
reading it as you watch its dollar value grow.