The conspiracy 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. 

Paperback: 384 pages

Published by Penguin Books

Released March 2006

Language: English

ISBN: 0142001155


See Table of Contents


"... By far the best – the most accurate and detailed – account yet to be written of the deliberate campaign to destroy Oppenheimer and elevate Edward Teller nefariously to power." 

– Richard Rhodes


“A rare, behind-the-scenes look at the downfall of the leader of the Manhattan Project ... Through McMillan, the reader is a fly on the wall, watching power shift from the scientists who created the atomic bomb to politicians who hoped to use nuclear weapons for their own gain. … The book gives readers a front-row seat from which to watch Truman and Eisenhower struggle with the unimaginable power of the hydrogen bomb, the new enemy in Josef Stalin, suspected enemies operating in America, and McCarthyism.” 

– Christian Science Monitor, August 2005 


“This compact study elegantly parses a central accusation in the case: that Oppenheimer was disloyal for opposing the hydrogen bomb – essentially, for voicing his opinion. … The author concludes … that scientists today rarely speak out, because they rely on military funding to pursue research.” 

– NY Review of Books, September 2005 

Cottrell, Robert, The History Teacher, February 2007 (Vol. 40, No. 2), Page 281-2

The Economist, July 23, 2005, p. 75. 


Foreign Affairs, Volume 84, No. 5., P. 74. 


Goodchild, Peter, "The Sum of His Parts" Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December 2005, p. 63-66. online


Hollinger, David A., "Life in a Force Field," American Scientist, January-February 2006, p. 68-70  online


Hoover, Bob, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 7, 2005. 


NY Times Sunday Book Review, August 7, 2005, p. 12.


Powers, Thomas A., "An American Tragedy," NY Review of Books, September 22, 2005. online


Valigra, Lori, "How the Father of the A-bomb Fell From Grace," Christian Science Monitor, August 2, 2005, page 16  online




Part One: 1945-1949


David Lilienthal's Vacation

The Maneuvering Begins

The Halloween Meeting

The Secret Debate

Lost Opportunities


Part Two: 1950


Fuchs's Betrayal

Fission versus Fusion




Part Three: 1951-1952


Teller's Choice

The Second Lab

A New Era

Part Four: 1952-1954


Sailing Close to the Wind

Strauss Returns

Two Wild Horses

The Blank Wall


The Hearing Begins



Caesar's Wife

Do We Really Need Scientists?


We Made It—and We Gave It Away