31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
A Man of Great Strengths and Great Weaknesses,
This review is from: The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer: and the Birth of the Modern Arms Race (Hardcover)
In studying Oppie I am reminded of the old saying about 'Gods too have feet of clay.' Oppie was a man of great talents, and some characteristics that I don't know if could be called great failures or not.
This book concentrates on the 1949 to 1955 period. These were the McCarthy years, when rumor, accusations, and the red scare. World War II was over, the Soviets, under Stalin had imposed the iron curtain. And it had become clear that communist spies in England and the United States had delivered the secrets of the atomic bomb to them.
As you might guess from the title, this book is very pro Oppenheimer. She blames Air Force officials, anti-Communist politicians, and competing scientists, particularily Edward Teller for seizing control of the U.S. nuclear policy and building ever more deadly weapons. Her telling of what happened is clear. Her philosophical tone is a bit more questionable.
She asks: Could development of the H-bomb have been averted? -- As a physicist I'll answer - No! It could be done (they thought at the time and were right), it would have been too intriguing a scientific question to let it pass. If not exactly at that time, then it would have been later. And considering the political situation at the time, no question that it would have been done.
She is very good about Oppie's weaknesses. After making an emotional appeal to Truman, Truman is rumored to have said, 'don't let that cry baby back into my office.'
There's a question I've always wondered, she doesn't answer it, I don't know that there is an answer. After the loss of his security clearance his influence on science policy was over. He became the director of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton. He thought and wrote about the problems of intellectual ethics, morality, and the most advanced subjects in physics. Was he as happy doing this as he had been in the public eye?
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Initial post: Jan 21, 2008 9:34:02 PM PST
Keenan G. Dailey says:
In answer to your question; no he never recovered. Being in the public eye energized him. Being the fighter against "the man." After he lost the fight he lost the energy. And if I remember correctly, his children killed themselves. The post-security clearance portion of his life was not a happy one. Well, according to American Prometheus by Kai Bird anyway.
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