Subtitled J. Robert Oppenheimer, Leo Szilard, and the Political Science of the Atomic Bomb

Szilard fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s and began trying to convince others of the possibilities resulting from atomic fission and its resulting energy, both good and bad. Throughout the 40s, he and other scientists worked to find the funding and material, especially uranium, for their experiments in the field, all the while arguing over whether the rules of science and publication of data had changed because of the war.

Fallout, written by Jim Ottaviani, has art by Janine Johnston, Steve Lieber, Vince Locke, Bernie Mireault, Jeff Parker, Chris Kemple, and Eddy Newell, with a cover by Jeffrey Jones.


The focus of the book then changes to Oppenheimer’s leadership of the Los Alamos laboratory, where the need for secrecy becomes even more pressing. It’s especially galling on those who escaped from the prison of fascism to be restricted under military oversight. It’s also a stretch for those used to operating on a theoretical basis to worry about how to accurately build such a devastating weapon.

Later, Oppenheimer participates in an inquiry to determine whether he is a security risk. Various incidents that have been reported against him and his response are run in text columns, juxtaposed against the images of his testimony to the panel. His clearance was revoked, preventing the “father of the atomic bomb” from working with the Atomic Energy Commission. Although the incidents took place 50 years ago, the idea of a secret tribunal turning against someone for being too liberal is disturbingly timely.

Fallout captures little-known elements of scientific history in an easy to understand, enlightening fashion. By making the names behind the facts into more three-dimensional people, Ottaviani sheds new light on how war affects science.

The GT Labs website has more information, including preview pages. I previously reviewed Dignifying Science, a biographical anthology about female scientists written by Ottaviani.

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