Half-Life : The Divided Life of Bruno Pontecorvo, Physicist or Spy
Overview - It was at the height of the Cold War, in the summer of 1950, when Bruno Pontecorvo mysteriously vanished behind the Iron Curtain. Who was he, and what caused him to disappear? Was he simply a physicist, or also a spy and communist radical? A protege of Enrico Fermi, Pontecorvo was one of the most promising nuclear physicists in the world. Read more...
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More About Half-Life by Frank Close
It was at the height of the Cold War, in the summer of 1950, when Bruno Pontecorvo mysteriously vanished behind the Iron Curtain. Who was he, and what caused him to disappear? Was he simply a physicist, or also a spy and communist radical? A protege of Enrico Fermi, Pontecorvo was one of the most promising nuclear physicists in the world. He spent years hunting for the Higgs boson of his day--the neutrino--a nearly massless particle thought to be essential to the process of particle decay. His work on the Manhattan Project helped to usher in the nuclear age, and confirmed his reputation as a brilliant physicist. Why, then, would he disappear as he stood on the cusp of true greatness, perhaps even the Nobel Prize?
, physicist and historian Frank Close offers a heretofore untold history of Pontecorvo's life, based on unprecedented access to Pontecorvo's friends and family and the Russian scientists with whom he would later work. Close takes a microscope to Pontecorvo's life, combining a thorough biography of one of the most important scientsts of the twentieth century with the drama of Cold War espionage. With all the elements of a Cold War thriller--classified atomic research, an infamous double agent, a possible kidnapping by Soviet operatives--Half-Life
is a history of nuclear physics at perhaps its most powerful: when it created the bomb.physics at perhaps its most powerful: when it created the bomb.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
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When Italian physicist Bruno Pontecorvo (1913–1993) disappeared in 1950, everyone believed he had fled to the U.S.S.R. to escape the fate of physicist Klaus Fuchs, arrested earlier that year “for passing atomic secrets” to the Soviets. Five years later, Pontecorvo surfaced in Moscow, explaining that he had moved to escape persecution for antiwar views and that his work had no military applications. Proof that Pontecorvo spied remains elusive, but Close, a professor of physics at Oxford, delivers an intensively researched, engrossing biography that turns up some suspicious behavior and mildly incriminating documents. Pontecorvo was a science prodigy who studied under Enrico Fermi in Rome, contributing to Fermi’s 1938 Nobel–winning studies on neutron bombardment of the atomic nucleus. In 1936 he joined the Paris laboratory of Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie, where he enhanced his reputation, absorbed their left-wing views, and joined the Communist Party. Work on various projects brought him to the U.S., Canada, and finally Britain before his disappearance at the height of Cold War spy hysteria. Whether or not he was a spy, he was undoubtedly a brilliant scientist. Close serves Pontecorvo well in this outstanding biography, illuminating his work as well as the painful political conflicts of his time. Agent: Patrick Walsh, Conville & Walsh. (Feb.)