From Oppenheimer to Fauci
The movie Oppenheimer serves as a reminder of a unique historical moment when scientists, policymakers, and politicians were aligned in pursuing a shared goal. The hostility directed toward Anthony Fauci for his role in leading the fight against COVID-19 underscores how far we have deviated from this ideal.
CAMBRIDGE – The plot of Oppenheimer, this summer’s surprise blockbuster film, resembles a Star Wars installment. An evil empire plans to harness a dark force to subjugate humanity. Fortunately, the forces of good master the technology before the enemy does, ensuring victory. But the effort is extremely expensive, and mobilizing the necessary resources requires massive investment and organizational prowess. In other words, it requires politics.
The director Christopher Nolan’s depiction of the Manhattan Project during World War II captures a unique historical moment when scientists, policymakers, and politicians were aligned in pursuit of a common goal. Albert Einstein had informed then-US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that Nazi Germany was working on a new and powerful nuclear weapon. Roosevelt, in response, recruited Robert Oppenheimer to lead a team of highly talented scientists, many of whom were European refugees fleeing fascist regimes, and appointed Lieutenant General Leslie Groves to head the supporting military effort.
Despite their different backgrounds and values, Oppenheimer and his scientists cooperated with Groves and his troops to accomplish their shared objective, exceeding even the most optimistic expectations. By developing the bomb ahead of the Nazis, they played a pivotal role in ensuring the Allies’ victory.
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