A Life in Twilight reveals the least-known and most enigmatic period of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life, from the public humiliation he endured after the 1954 Atomic Energy Commission’s investigation into his alleged communist leanings and connections to his death in 1967. It covers Oppenheimer’s continued work as a scientist and philosopher and head of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, his often controversial public appearances, as well as parts of his private life.
What emerges is a portrait of a man who was toppled from the highest echelons of politics and society, had to see his honor and name blackened, but succeeded in maintaining his dignity and rebuilding a shattered life, although he never truly recovered from the McCarthy-inspired persecution he suffered. Previously unpublished FBI files round out the picture and cast a sinister cloud over Oppenheimer’s final years, during which he remained under occasional surveillance.
Mark Wolverton has succeeded in presenting an evenhanded and very well- researched account of a life that ended in twilight. It reads like a written version of the acclaimed film Good Night, and Good Luck, and indeed Murrow’s interview with Oppenheimer is one of the central elements of the story.
A Life in Twilight is an important exploration, not only of a prominent scientist and philosopher, but also of an unforgettable era in American history.
“A Life in Twilight is a sensitive, engaging, and wonderfully readable rendering of the sad final decade of an American patriot brutalized by the destructive politics of the McCarthy era. As such, it is a welcome and vitally important contribution to our understanding of this complex man as well as of some of the consequences to our society when we allow government officials to use fear as a political weapon.”
---Martin J. Sherwin, coauthor of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, 2006 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography
“The story of Robert Oppenheimer’s last years as told by Mark Wolverton makes an intense, compelling book. We need reminding of the price this country paid for the hounding of a great man: not just for the paranoia and vindictiveness of scoundrels like J. Edgar Hoover and Lewis Strauss, Oppenheimer’s chief persecutors, but for the way others---from President Eisenhower down---allowed the disaster to happen.”
---Anthony Lewis, author of Gideon’s Trumpet, Portrait of a Decade, and Make No Law
“A Life in Twilight cuts through the myth of the tragic, guilt-ridden scientist to offer a convincing account of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life and activities after the Atomic Energy Commission labeled him a ‘security risk’ in 1954. This readable and well-researched book illuminates the personality of one of the more enigmatic, controversial, and endlessly fascinating figures of twentieth-century U.S. history. Mark Wolverton also conveys a vivid picture of America’s political crosscurrents, scientific and academic communities, and media-driven popular culture in the 1950s and early ’60s.”
---Paul Boyer, author of By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age
The Final Years of J. Robert Oppenheimer