Doctor Atomic


Doctor Atomic Resources

The Metropolitan Opera Doctor Atomic web site

The Vets Take the Stage – a Metropolitan Opera blog posting


Voices of the Manhattan Project

A lifetime ago they were plucked from graduate
schools and university laboratories in the midst of World War II and
told to report to obscure locations to work on building an atomic bomb.
Their work changed the world. Earlier this month, veterans of the
Manhattan Project shared their experiences and feelings about the bomb
at a gathering at the Graduate Center of the City University of New

Audio recordings by Nicole Bengiveno and David Goldman; Some interviews by Dennis Overbye.


Robert Crease review in Physics World

Robert P Crease, chairman of the Department of Philosophy, Stony Brook University, and historian at the Brookhaven National Laboratorym reviews the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Doctor Atomic for the January 2009 issue of Physics World magazine.


Scientific American podcast on the Manhattan Project and Doctor Atomic

In his weekly podcast for Scientific American, Steve Mirsky spoke with some of the Manhattan Project veterans who participated in the Doctor Atomic Symposium: Roy Glauber (Nobel laureate), Murray Peshkin, Leonard Jossem, Al Bartlett, Hans Courant, Harold Agnew, and Benjamin Bederson. They shared some of their memories of the project and its aftermath.


Doctor Atomic Sessions on YouTube

The History, Science, and Scientists of the Bomb

Part of the Science & the Arts
Series at CUNY’s Graduate Center, this is the first of five
symposia produced in collaboration with the Metropolitan Opera,
which recently presented Doctor Atomic, a new opera by John
Adams, which centers on the moral dilemmas surrounding the
development and use of the atom bomb in World War II. Adams
comments and historians Richard Rhodes and Robert S. Norris,
along with physicist Norman Ramsey, discuss the science and
politics behind the bomb and the decision to use it. CUNY
Chancellor Matthew Goldstein moderates.

1:14:11 edit of the 2 hour session

J. Robert Oppenheimer: The Man, the Manager, the Physicist

The opera Doctor Atomic revolves
about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the pioneer in quantum mechanics
and the key scientist behind the first atom bomb. Brilliant,
driven and controversial, he lost his security clearance during
the McCarthy hysteria of the early 1950s. Historians Robert
Crease and David Cassidy join physicist Jeremy Bernstein, a
former student of Oppenheimer, to consider him as a scientist
and as a man. NYU Professor Emeritus Benjamin Bederson

1:31:43 edit of the 2 hour session

The Manhattan Project: The Photography
Photographers Rachael Fermi and Esther Samra share images from their book, Picturing the Bomb: Photographs from the Secret World of the Manhattan Project, during a 2008 CUNY symposium surrounding the opera Doctor Atomic. Fermi, a granddaughter of Enrico Fermi, one of the key physicists of the Manhattan Project, began her quest to document the project after finding a color snapshot of the worlds first atomic blast amid family photos in a shoebox. They discuss official and unofficial photographs, as well as work and social life at the various project sites.

25 minute session

The Manhattan Project: The Scientists

In an unprecedented gathering, 11 scientists who helped develop the first atomic bomb discuss their roles and experiences. The discussion begins with an overview by Harold Agnew, the former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, who was involved in almost all aspects of the Manhattan Project and wrote Chicago, Los Alamos, Tinian Island and the Atomic Bomb. The other scientists speaking are Albert Bartlett, Benjamin Bederson, Robert J. Brown, Morton Camac, Hans Courant, Roy Glauber, E. Leonard Jossem, Nathan T. Melamed, Murray Peshkin, and Tom Wartik.

1:21:58 edit of the 1:30:00 session

The Making of the Opera Doctor Atomic

Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, moderates a discussion about his decision to stage John Adams’ opera Doctor Atomic for the first time in New York City. He discusses the Met’s production with Adams, director Penny Woolcock, and set designer Julian Crouch. The session includes a video clip of baritone Gerald Finley, who has sung the role of J. Robert Oppenheimer at the Met and around the world.

1:48:24 edit of the 2 hour session
Wartime Decisions and the Atomic Age

Controversy has never ceased about the United States’ decision to use nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and on Nagasaki three days later. Were these bombings necessary to end the war? Moderator Gerald Holton, professor of physics and the history of science at Harvard University, discusses a host of questions with Martin J. Sherwin, winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer and a professor of history at George Mason University; Harry Lustig, provost emeritus and professor of physics at The City College of New York, who wrote Did the Allies Know that the Germans were Not Building an Atomic Bomb?; and Gar Alperovitz, Bauman professor of political economy at the University of Maryland, author of The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb.

1:39:09 edit of the 2 hour session

Doctor Atomic Podcasts

Los Alamos – a novel by Joseph Kanon

Joseph Kanon, bestselling novelist of The Good German, speaks about his murder mystery set at Los Alamos. In this dusty, remote community of secretly constructed buildings and awesome possibility, the world’s most brilliant minds have come together and are joined by an unraveler of human secrets – a man in search of a killer.


The Manhattan Project

Fermi description of Trinity Test
Manhattan Project veteran Hans Courant has contributed this document; a fascinating eye-witness account of the Trinity test, the first test of nuclear weapon technology, written by Enrico Fermi. The document bears the notes and stamps of numerous government censors.

Articles by Gar Alperowitz

2005 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists-A Dubious Advantage

Hiroshima After Sixty Years-The Debate Continues

Gar Alperovitz has been a leading figure in scholarly research on the atomic bomb for more than four decades. Two articles from Common Newscenter and from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists augment his presentation at the Doctor Atomic Symposium.

Morton Camac – Recollections of My Participation in the Manhattan Project
Morton Camac was 20 years old when he was hired by the Manhattan Project. He initially worked at the University of Chicago where the first nuclear reactor was developed, in a project headed by Enrico Fermi. In 1945 planes were readied to fly from Tinian Island to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Camac was in his assigned location; on the runway with a radiation detector.


Nazi Germany’s Atom Bomb Project

Harry Lustig is Professor of Physics, Emeritus, the City College of the
City University of New York. His presentation “What Did the Allies Know
about Nazi Germany’s Failure to Produce an Atomic Bomb, When Did They
Know It, and What Did They Do with That Knowledge?” was delivered during
the symposium session titled Wartime Decisions and the Atomic Age.