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Man of the Hour : James B. Conant, Warrior Scientist
by Jennet Conant


Overview - "Gripping...an outstanding portrait of a technocrat, at work and at home."-- The Wall Street Journal

"Evocative...relentless"-- The New York Times Book Review

"This is biography and history at its best."--Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Team of Rivals and The Bully Pulpit

The remarkable life of one of the most influential men of the greatest generation, James B.  Read more...


 
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More About Man of the Hour by Jennet Conant
 
 
 
Overview
"Gripping...an outstanding portrait of a technocrat, at work and at home."-- The Wall Street Journal

"Evocative...relentless"--The New York Times Book Review

"This is biography and history at its best."--Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Team of Rivals and The Bully Pulpit

The remarkable life of one of the most influential men of the greatest generation, James B. Conant--a savvy architect of the nuclear age and the Cold War--told by his granddaughter, New York Times bestselling author Jennet Conant.

James Bryant Conant was a towering figure. He was at the center of the mammoth threats and challenges of the twentieth century. As a young eminent chemist, he supervised the production of poison gas in World War I. As a controversial president of Harvard University, he was a champion of meritocracy and open admissions. As an advisor to FDR, he led the interventionist cause for US entrance in World War II. During that war, Conant was the administrative director of the Manhattan Project, oversaw the development of the atomic bomb and argued that it be used against the industrial city of Hiroshima in Japan. Later, he urged the Atomic Energy Commission to reject the hydrogen bomb, and devoted the rest of his life to campaigning for international control of atomic weapons. As Eisenhower's high commissioner to Germany, he helped to plan German recovery and was an architect of the United States' Cold War policy.

Now New York Times bestselling author Jennet Conant recreates the cataclysmic events of the twentieth century as her grandfather James experienced them. She describes the guilt, fears, and sometimes regret of those who invented and deployed the bombs and the personal toll it took. From the White House to Los Alamos to Harvard University, Man of the Hour is based on hundreds of documents and diaries, interviews with Manhattan Projects scientists, Harvard colleagues, and Conant's friends and family, including her father, James B. Conant's son. This is a very intimate, up-close look at some of the most argued cases of modern times--among them the use of chemical weapons, the decision to drop the bomb, Oppenheimer's fate, the politics of post-war Germany and the Cold War--the repercussions of which are still affecting our world today.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781476730882
  • ISBN-10: 1476730881
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publish Date: September 2017
  • Page Count: 608
  • Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Political
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Science & Technology
Books > History > United States - 20th Century

 
BookPage Reviews

Midcentury Renaissance man

Jennet Conant’s latest book, Man of the Hour: James B. Conant, Warrior Scientist, is a magisterial biography of one of the 20th century’s most influential men: her own grandfather. James B. Conant, a brilliant scientist, had a career that was so varied and vital to our country that this book could easily have been called “Man of Many Hours.”

To say that James realized an impressive array of achievements is to damn him with faint praise. An outstanding research chemist at Harvard, he was crucial to understanding the structure of chlorophyll. In recognition of his vision and talent, he was selected as the president of Harvard soon after turning 40. What would have been the capstone achievement for most people turned out to be a steppingstone for James.

Appointed by Eisenhower as the high commissioner to Germany, he ushered West Germany into NATO. Later, after sputnik, he became a powerful voice for strengthening the public school system. But James is perhaps most famous for his work on the Manhattan Project. It is likely that the Project would have failed without his steady and wise presence, but his most famous achievement haunted him. Postwar, James was horrified by the threat of nuclear proliferation, and he argued strongly against developing the hydrogen bomb. The politics of the time—McCarthyism, Stalin’s aggression, Truman’s inexperience—doomed his ideas, but one wonders what the world would be like now if James had been heeded.

Jennet Conant has written about her grandfather before, in her earlier books 109 East Palace and Tuxedo Park. But while there is genuine pride in her grandfather, she never allows it to cloud her judgment. Jennet can be quite critical of her subject, especially when detailing the devastating impact his prolonged absences had upon his wife and sons. In other words, she brings to her task the same objectivity, thoroughness and interest that her grandfather brought to his. Insightful and rich in detail, this book is a fitting tribute to a remarkable man.

 

This article was originally published in the October 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
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