Oppenheimer’s final years revealed

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By Special to the Monitor

Science writer Mark Wolverton brings sensitivity, insight and convincing research to “A Life in Twilight: the Final Years of J. Robert Oppenheimer.” Wolverton will speak at the Bradbury Science Museum at 5 p.m. Thursday and will sign copies of “A Life in Twilight” from 6-7:30 p.m. at Otowi Station.

The book encompasses the last 13 years of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s life.

Although biographies of Oppenheimer are abundant, the period from the 1954 Atomic Energy Commission’s investigation into the physicist’s Communist leanings to his death in 1967 has rarely been examined in any depth.

The man who headed America’s top-secret atom-bomb program was branded a security risk in 1954 because of personal enmities, past associations with leftists and his opposition to the hydrogen bomb.

Oppenheimer became a potent political symbol. McCarthyites tried to bar him from campus speaking engagements, while progressives and the scientific community championed him as a martyr to McCarthyism.

Wolverton intersperses the narrative with a recap of Oppenheimer’s rigged 1954 security hearing and reproduces documents from his FBI surveillance file.

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