Man of the Hour: James B. Conant, Warrior Scientist by Jennet Conant
Simon & Schuster, 608 pp.
Jennet Conant is one of our leading non-fiction writers, author of acclaimed and bestselling books like Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science that Changed the Course of the World. At last, she has turned to the subject that has been looming before her all her life: her grandfather, James Conant, who served as president of Harvard University in the pivotal years 1933 to 1953; served as an advisor to Franklin Delano Roosevelt; and played a major role in the development of the atom bomb.
At Harvard, Conant was a great reformer, who diversified the student body and helped clear the way for women to enroll in the medical school and the law school. In Washington, he pressed Roosevelt, when many were not, to intervene in World War II. And as administrative director of the Manhattan Project, he helped coordinate the extraordinary scientists who produced the A-bomb – while later in life, becoming a leading advocate of atomic weapons control. Jennet Conant interviewed Manhattan Project scientists and Harvard professors, delved through diaries and family scrapbooks, and pored through the historical record to produce an engrossing, nuanced portrait of a complex and enormously influential man.