Ghamari-Tabrizi, Sharon 1960–

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Ghamari-Tabrizi, Sharon 1960–

PERSONAL: Born 1960. Education: University of California, Santa Cruz, Ph.D., 1993.

ADDRESSES: Home—Urbana-Champaign, IL. Office—Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 359 Armory Bldg., MC-533, 505 E. Armory Ave., Champaign, IL 61820.

CAREER: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, visiting assistant professor, 2005–. New York University, visiting scholar at International Center for Advanced Studies, 2002.

AWARDS, HONORS: Fellowships from universities, including Northwestern University, 1993–94, College of William and Mary, 1994–96, Carnegie Mellon University, 1996–98, Wesleyan University, 1998–99, University of Iowa, 2000, and U.S. Military Academy at Westpoint, 2002; grant from National Science Foundation, 2003.


The Worlds of Herman Kahn: The Intuitive Science of Thermonuclear War, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS: Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi earned her doctorate from the University of California at Santa Cruz in the history-of-consciousness program, then went on to do post-doctoral work, her studies including the history of science, the history of cold-war science and technology, cultural studies, and military history. Her first book, The Worlds of Herman Kahn: The Intuitive Science of Thermonuclear War, closely examines the life and work of the physicist and nuclear strategist who worked at the RAND Corporation during the 1950s and who was responsible for major research into the possible uses for simulated experience, primarily that used in planning for nuclear war.

Ghamari-Tabrizi became interested in Kahn (1922–83) when she was a student taking a graduate seminar in the history of the cold war and came across a copy of Kahn's 1960 book, On Thermonuclear War. The sections on various potential present-day scenarios based upon hypothetical outcomes for past major events intrigued her. In an interview on her home page, she explained that "the first thing that snagged my attention was the science fictional quality of something I had expected to be dry and unimaginative." She went on to say that "Kahn's ideas were and are recognizable as arguments about nuclear deterrence and strategy, but what interested me was that there was so much more going on in his book, so much that was strange to me and rather grotesque. Had it been more conventionally done, I wouldn't have stopped short and goggled. What really snagged my attention was the intensity of the psychic energy coursing through his book."

Of Ghamari-Tabrizi's book on Kahn, Edmund Levin, writing for the Weekly Standard, observed that the author "evokes the intellectual climate at RAND and paints a vivid picture of Kahn in action." In addition, the critic noted, "an important point that goes unremarked is that Kahn, far from being gung-ho on nuclear war, was an early and persistent advocate of a 'no-first-use' pledge by the United States. So when Ghamari-Tabrizi links Kahn to the Bush administration's interest in a new category of tactical nuclear 'bunker busters,' she is way off." A contributor for Publishers Weekly stated that "Ghamari-Tabrizi provides a fascinating look at a complex man … who was thinking, as the author says, about the unthinkable."



Arms Control Today, May, 2005, review of The Worlds of Herman Kahn: The Intuitive Science of Thermonuclear War, p. 46.

Booklist, April 15, 2005, Gilbert Taylor, review of The Worlds of Herman Kahn, p. 1417.

Futurist, September-October, 2005, review of The Worlds of Herman Kahn, p. 57.

Publishers Weekly, February 28, 2005, review of The Worlds of Herman Kahn, p. 55.

Weekly Standard, July 18, 2005, Edmund Levin, "Nuclear Philosopher: Big Thoughts from a Big Man about Big Bombs," review of The Worlds of Herman Kahn, p. 39.


Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security Web site, (November 20, 2005), "Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi."

New Yorker Online, (June 20, 2005), Louis Menand, "Fat Man," review of The Worlds of Herman Kahn.

Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi Home Page, (November 20, 2005).