March 22, 2002


Thanks largely to the play Copenhagen, and the release of some letters by Niels Bohr, the questions surrounding Werrner Heisenberg and his commitment to the cause of Nazism are once again in the news. Our local NPR affiliate had a nice interview with his son last night, who's a professor at UNH: A Father and Son Bonded by Science : Jochen Heisenberg (John Walters, 03/21/2002, The Front Porch).

I'm agnostic on the issue of whether Heisenberg intentionally sidetracked the Nazi bomb program or just hadn't figured out some details, but there's one aspect of the story that's always caught my fancy. Former major league catcher and Princeton graduate Moe Berg, a truly fascinating character whose adventures read like the stuff of dime-novel melodrama, was sent by the OSS to a Heisenberg lecture in Zurich in 1944, with instructions to shoot him if it looked like he understood the workings of the atomic bomb. Berg had also been placed on a team of ballplayers who were barnstorming Japan before the war with instructions to obtain photographs of potential bombing sites. They were later used in the Doolittle raids. Nicholas Dawidoff wrote an excellent biography of Berg called, The Catcher Was a Spy. It's very entertaining.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 22, 2002 9:58 AM
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