Just saw the Oppenheimer film and hungry for more?
Our global security faculty and researchers with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) have recommendations. CNS is the largest nongovernmental organization in the United States devoted exclusively to research and training on nonproliferation issues.
American Prometheus, by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. “The film is about Oppenheimer, not the project and afterwards. If you want to go deeper, I recommend you read the book the movie was based on and think more broadly about the impact of the Manhattan Project.”
Plutonium 1943–1945, by Los Alamos Historical Society. “For someone who wants to go really deep on the science, my colleague and neighbor, Ed Hammel, cast the first hemispheres of plutonium. No one had written up the plutonium story. I urged him to and he wrote it up before he died.”
The Day After Trinity, “an Academy Award-winning documentary, which can be viewed for free on the Criterion app, is an excellent first-hand account with interviews of key scientists involved in the Manhattan Project, who knew Oppenheimer closely. This 1981 documentary is a very good complement to the movie, Oppenheimer. Some of the interesting figures interviewed extensively are Robert Oppenheimer’s brother, Frank; the Nobel laureate Hans Bethe; and Freeman Dyson, who were all part of the Manhattan Project. Their recollections of that important period and the underlying debates are invaluable oral histories for researchers and the general public.”
Hiroshima “This short book, by John Hersey, is based on what was initially a lengthy article in the New Yorker and was published a couple of years after the atomic bombing. It gave Americans their first description of the actual effects of dropping the bomb. This helps make up for what many critics have felt was an omission in the movie.”
The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes, “is the definitive book account of the Manhattan Project and the science and engineering behind the bomb.”
The Winning Weapon, by Gregg Herken, “is a historian’s review of how the U.S. approached the questions of arms control and a possible arms race in the years right after World War II.”
The Advisors: Oppenheimer, Teller, and the Superbomb, by Herbert York, “is a good account of the dispute between Oppenheimer and Teller over whether to build the H-bomb, which became a key factor in the hearing that led to Oppenheimer losing his security clearance.”
Senior Education Project Manager and Research Associate (CNS)
Masako Toki has collaborated with hibakusha (survivors of the atomic bomb) to share their stories with youth, and she leads programs educating high school students and undergraduates about nuclear disarmament and peacemaking. Read her latest piece in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in which she quotes a recent speech by the Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki. “We should all understand that the biggest obstacle to a world without nuclear weapons is a mindset that nuclear weapons are essential for peacekeeping.”
Nuclear nonproliferation researcher Masako Toki writes in the Bulletin for the Atomic Scientists that the dwindling number of atomic bomb survivors—known as hibakusha—have an important role for teaching the next generation of nonproliferation experts.