Books: The Atomic Meltdown

Two vivid accounts of what Robert Oppenheimer did for the U.S., and the price he paid for it

It was J. Robert Oppenheimer himself who chose the code name "Trinity" for the 1945 test of the atom bomb he had done so much to create. He would say later that he was inspired by a line from the poet John Donne: "Batter my heart, three-personed God." It was just like Oppenheimer, at a moment of triumph, to lay in a note of anguish. He may have been the physicist who led-- who drove--the scientific crash program at Los Alamos, N.M. But he was not a simple man. It tells you something that his idea of the right parting gift for one girlfriend was Dostoyevsky's...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!