Brotherhood of the Bomb

The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller

by Gregg Herken

Reviewed October 15, 2002

Book CoverAuthor Gregg Herken of the Smithsonian Institution explores the roles and relationships between the three principle American scientists; Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller whose work led to thedevelopment of the atomic and hydrogen bombs. This book is a story of the people and the events around them rather than an examination of the science.

Mr. Herken takes the reader through the various scientific-governmental and political-military issues, exploring how key decisions were made - as they (Oppenheimer, Lawrence, and Teller) debate and maneuver to gain acceptance for their points of view. This book also helps restore the importance of Ernest Lawrence in the tale of the development of the atomic bomb, a fact often forgotten by many. We are also reminded of the significant contributions of many others, including Vannevar Bush, James B. Conant, Arthur Compton, Enrico Fermi and Alfred Loomis.

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.

The book also chronicles Oppenheimer's too cozy relationship with radical left politics, and Teller's momentous decision to testify against him during his security hearings. This event is one of the most controversial in recent history of American science. Mr. Herken recounts these events is a clear and concise manner, with barely a word of editorial comment.

This book is a perfect companion to both of Richard Rhodes' efforts and Robert Norris' biography of General Groves.