Gregg Herken - Brotherhood of the Bomb

from the publisher:

The fascinating story of the three men who founded the nuclear age, fully told for the first time

If science is the story of the twentieth century, no drama is more compelling than that of "the Bomb" and its creators. But the riveting tale of human conflict that connects the three scientists most responsible for the nuclear age -- Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller -- was until now known only in broad outline.

Ten years in the research and writing, Gregg Herken's eye-opening account is based on private papers, interviews with Manhattan Project survivors, and recently released documents and coded intercepts obtained from FBI and KGB archives and other sources around the world. One of Brotherhood of the Bomb's surprises is the complex game of spy versus counterspy that surrounded the bomb's building and later dominated the Cold War. Yet, armies of U.S. security agents were unable to prevent the bomb's secrets from being passed to the Russians (sometimes by their American helpers). At the book's center is the question of loyalty -- to science, to country, to family -- and the wrenching choices that had to be made when such allegiances came into conflict.

Revealed here for the first time are Robert Oppenheimer's efforts while scientific director of the Manhattan Project to hide his radical past, and the complicity of General Leslie Groves, head of the bomb project, in keeping that long-held secret. Oppenheimer was ultimately compromised by lies he told to protect his brother, Frank, which led to his own loyalty hearing during the high-water mark of McCarthyism in the 1950s.

More than a cautionary tale, Brotherhood of the Bomb is a vital slice of American history. Gregg Herken's compelling and authoritative book reveals what can happen to individual and group integrity when big-time science -- and its practitioners -- are enlisted in the service of the state.

"Gregg Herken has written a fine human history of how Lawrence, Teller, and Oppenheimer worked and argued together, and he brings to life the dozen years when they led the world into the nuclear age." --Thomas Powers, author of Heisenberg's War: The Secret History of the German Bomb and The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA

"Brotherhood of the Bomb is fast-paced, is deeply researched, and resolves many longtime mysteries. More authoritatively than any previous history, it reveals the unseemly ambitions and personal conflicts among American scientists and government leaders that accelerated the nuclear arms race." --Richard Rhodes, author of Dark Sun and The Making of the Atomic Bomb

"The power of science and technology is the pivotal story of our time. A bright light is cast on the practical and moral issues by this joint biography of three physicists most prominent in the rise of nuclear weapons. After half a century, much information once secret has emerged, and Herken has done a thorough job of scouring the archives and contacting witnesses. With his combination of deep research and lively writing, he has given us the definitive telling of the story of these extraordinary men in all their conflicts and sad triumphs." --Spencer Weart, director, AIP Center for History of Physics

"In the engaging and wonderfully researched book, Gregg Herken unveils a new dimension in the American saga of the nuclear scientists who created the world's first atomic and hydrogen bombs. Here is a suspenseful history of how three brilliant minds overcame daunting obstacles in a time of world crisis. Yet it is not always a pretty story. it is full of troubling insights on Oppenheimer's flirtation with the Communist Party, Lawrence's scientific empire-building, and Teller's compulsion to build bigger bombs. A timely and thoughtful book." --Joseph Albright, coauthor of Bombshell: The Secret Story of America's Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy

Gregg Herken is a senior historian and curator at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum and previously taught at Oberlin College, Yale University, and the California Institute of Technology. He is the author of The Winning Weapon: The Atomic Bomb in the Cold War, Counsels of War, and Cardinal Choices, a history of presidential science advising. Herken received a MacArthur research and writing grant for Brotherhood of the Bomb, and in 1984-85 was detailed as a senior research and policy analyst to the President's Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments as a result of some of the discoveries he made researching this book. He and his family live in Alexandria, Virginia.