Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics

By Edward Teller; Judith L. Shoolery | Go to book overview

30
THE
OPPENHEIMER HEARING
April 12,1954—May 6,1954

LEWIS STRAUSS DID not have his way. Oppenheimer did not withdraw.

On April 12, 1954, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) assembled the personnel board—chairman Gordon Gray, president of the University of North Carolina and former secretary of the Army; Ward Evans, professor of chemistry at Loyola University, Chicago; and Thomas A. Morgan, former president and chairman of Sperry Rand—and the hearing began. The next day, the New York Times published the questions that the AEC had sent to Oppenheimer, together with Oppenheimer's replies. 1 I should have availed myself of that information, but I was convinced that I understood the charges and had made up my mind not to pay attention to questions regarding Oppie's left-leaning associations.

I had heard that Oppenheimer had been sympathetic to communist causes during the prewar period, and everyone knew that Oppie had friends on the far left; at Los Alamos during the war, he often had complained because he wasn't allowed to see them. This was neither surprising nor, to my mind, alarming. The charges concerning Oppenheimer's employing active members of the Communist Party at wartime Los Alamos were hardly noteworthy, either. I had long known that David Hawkins, the historian at Los Alamos, was extremely liberal. Again, the issue seemed of little significance.

The question of Oppenheimer's friend Haakon Chevalier also failed to arouse my interest. The story I had heard was much the same as the statement

____________________
1
James Reston, "Dr. Oppenheimer Suspended by A.E.C. in Security Review: Scentist Demands Record," New York Times, 13 April 1954, sec. 1, 15—18.

-369-

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