Science writer KC Cole (also a professor at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication) has written a biography of Frank Oppenheimer. She’s been working on it for a very long time and it has just been released, so if you look around, maybe she’s doing a reading/signing about it somewhere near you. (Some events are listed here. Los Angeles readers, she’ll be at Skylight Books tomorrow afternoon.) It is called “Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up”. She was talking about it last week with Ira Flatow on NPR’s Science Friday. You can get audio here. Or you can listen to it embedded here and read on:
She was also on KPCC’s Air Talk with Larry Mantle. Audio here.
This might not be the Oppenheimer you first think of. You might be thinking of Robert, the so called “father of the atomic bomb”. Frank is Robert’s brother, and his history is at least as interesting as Robert’s but less well known. KC’s book ought to help contribute a bit to rectifying that. Those of you who’ve visited San Francisco may have been to the wonderful hands-on science museum called the Exploratorium, a place which has inspired many other museum and exhibit designers to rethink how they present their materials. Frank was intensely interested and active in the business of science education for the public. He considered it (and I agree) a scientist’s duty to get involved, at least to some extent, with such “outreach” efforts. (For more on this issue, see also my immediately previous post.) KC Cole’s book goes into a lot of detail about how he came to follow that path, what went before, the founding of the Exploratorium, and what came after. It looks like a marvellous piece of work. I’ve not read it, but I have talked to KC about it a bit, and of course as some of you know, KC is an excellent writer and so it’ll be sure to be a good read.
Another Summer reading item for the bedside table, beach or cabin, I’d say!