A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee
Ten years in the research and writing, Gregg Herken's account of the three scientists most responsible for the nuclear age—Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller—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 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 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.