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The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer

And the Birth of the Modern Arms Race

The true story of the government conspiracy to bring down J. Robert Oppenheimer, America’s most famous scientist.

On April 12, 1954, the nation was astonished to learn that J. Robert Oppenheimer was facing charges of violating national security. Could the director of the Manhattan Project, the visionary who led the effort to build the atom bomb, really be a traitor? In this riveting book, bestselling author Priscilla J. McMillan draws on newly declassified U.S. government documents and materials from Russia, as well as in-depth interviews, to expose for the first time the conspiracy that destroyed one of America’s most illustrious scientists.

McMillan recreates the fraught years from 1949 to 1955 when Oppenheimer and a group of liberal scientists tried to head off the cabal of hard-line air force officials, anti-Communist politicians, and rival scientists, including physicist Edward Teller, who were trying to seize control of U.S. policy and build ever more deadly nuclear weapons. Retelling the story of Oppenheimer’s trial, which took place in utmost secrecy, she describes how the government made up its own rules and violated many protections of the rule of law. She also argues that the effort to discredit Oppenheimer, occurring at the height of the McCarthy era and sanctioned by a misinformed President Eisenhower, was a watershed in the Cold War, poisoning American politics for decades and creating dangers that haunt us today.

A chilling tale of McCarthy-era machinations, this groundbreaking page-turner rewrites the history of the Cold War.

About the Authors

Priscilla J. McMillan is an associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. The author of the bestselling Marina and Lee: The Tormented Love and Fatal Obsession Behind Lee Harvey Oswald’s Assassination of John F. Kennedy, her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, and Scientific American, among other places.


"Pricilla J. McMillan understands that reality and, without patronizing the reader, writes an engrossing narrative that anyone with any level of background—or lack thereof—on this most important of subjects can follow"


"Stunning... [an] extraordinary book."

"This brief but penetrating account of [Oppenheimer's] downfall may come closest to explaining his contemporary relevance."

"A must-read... No details are spared in exploring whether the hydrogen bomb's development could have been averted and history possibly changed, nor in examining the jealousy and deception that ultimately destroyed Oppenheimer."

"A superb and fascinating book that illuminates unseen dimensions of one of the most controversial American stories of the twentieth century."

- Michael Beschloss
Johns Hopkins University Press
Johns Hopkins Nuclear History and Contemporary Affairs
From 13 To 17

9781421425672 : the-ruin-of-j-robert-oppenheimer-mcmillan-sherwin
Paperback / softback
416 Pages
$32.00 USD
9781421425689 : the-ruin-of-j-robert-oppenheimer-mcmillan-sherwin
Electronic book text
416 Pages
$32.00 USD

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