A library card shows the names of contemporary scholar Cameron Strang and Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Nadine Zimmerli/Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture
discovery / found

Atomic Bonds

What was J. Robert Oppenheimer doing with a book about science in early America?
This card connects one Institute to another: issued by the library of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, N.J., it features a book published by the Institute of Early American History and Culture, Brooke Hindle’s 1956 volume The Pursuit of Science in Revolutionary America, 1735–1789. It’s not the first title we ever published (that honor belongs to Louis B. Wright’s 1947 edition of Robert Beverley’s The History and Present State of Virginia), but it’s among the earliest (coming in at something like no. 16 on the list). The transatlantic historian in me longs to situate both institutions and their scholarly missions and output within the era’s Cold War context, but I’ll refrain for now and just point out that this old-fashioned library card bridges the disciplines of history and physics; it unites the humanities with the hard sciences.

Even more intriguingly, this unassuming document links an Institute book to a Cold War giant. Cameron was the Martin L. and Sarah F. Leibowitz Member at the IAS when he checked out Hindle’s The Pursuit of Science and discovered that he was in select company when it came to IAS readers of this book. As he put it in his email, “Before me, this copy had only one reader, but he’s pretty impressive.” J. Robert Oppenheimer—Presidential Medal for Merit recipient, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology, director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory during World War II, and finally director of the IAS when he checked out Hindle’s book—was impressive indeed, an intellectual luminary and one of America’s most influential scientists, the “father of the atomic bomb” who later came to express ambivalence about his creation.
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