Praise for MIND OVER MATTER:
"Ruminations on every scientific subject under the sun, and plenty beyond it ... In pithy, three-page bursts, [Cole] tackles particle physics, geometry, Alfred Nobel, and about a thousand other topics, all with graceful, accessible prose." --The Boston Globe (Sunday)
"An absolute delight ... Belongs on the bedside bookshelf of every science enthusiast and should also be a treat for any reader curious about the universe." --San Jose Mercury-News
Physicist Frank Oppenheimer (1912-85) grew up in the shadow of his much older brother, J. Robert (1904-67), and in the view of many authors, he remains there to this day, popping up in biographies and histories mainly as a footnote to the brilliant Los Alamos director. Even the story of his devastating appearances before a Communist-hunting congressional committee, which temporarily ruined his career, has been treated as a sidelight to the much larger controversies surrounding his brother's loyalty. K. C. Cole rectifies all those historical mishaps with this richly detailed, deeply sympathetic biography of a man who remade his life several times, ultimately emerging as the creator of the "hands on" museum movement.
Many visitors to the world-famous Exploratorium in San Francisco probably know little about its founder, Frank Oppenheimer (1912-1985). Like his brother, physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, Frank both worked on the Manhattan Project and was a victim of the 1950s Red Scare. Blacklisted and unable to find a university professorship, he taught high school in Colorado, turning out scores of science prize winners. After moving to California, Oppenheimer drew on his teaching experience to found the Exploratorium, a hands-on science museum that continues to influence others in the field. In this fond memoir, well-regarded science writer Cole (The Universe and the Teacup), who knew Oppenheimer well, capably surveys his early career, but the book's true subject is his work at the Exploratorium and his philosophy, not just of science education but of life. This constitutes most of the second half of the book, which may frustrate readers looking for pure biography, but it offers much that is provocative for those interested in science education. 8 pages of b&w photos.(Aug. 4)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Physicist Frank Oppenheimer has long been overshadowed by his controversial older brother, Robert, the "father of the atomic bomb," although his scientific career was also destroyed by the Red Scare of the 1950s. Cole (Mind over Matter; The Hole in the Universe) was a close friend of Oppenheimer's and draws upon his papers, numerous interviews, and her personal experience to paint a picture of his life. Oppenheimer was deeply affected by working on the Manhattan Project. After being blacklisted during the McCarthy era, he ran a cattle ranch and taught high school physics before reemerging into public life in 1969 to create the Exploratorium, a revolutionary hands-on museum in San Francisco that combined art and science. Cole devotes the largest portion of her book to discussing this period of Oppenheimer's life, as it embodies his passion for teaching and fostering creativity. Indeed, it would be impossible to present the story of Oppenheimer's life without discussing the Exploratorium, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Verdict In a thought-provoking and pleasant manner, Cole's much-welcomed book shines a new light on a remarkable man and scientist. Readers interested in good popular science biographies will enjoy this. [See Prepub Alert, LJ4/15/09.]—William Baer, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta
An admiring biography of Frank Oppenheimer (1912-1985) by a friend and colleague, science writer Cole (Journalism/Univ. of Southern California; Mind Over Matter: Conversations with the Cosmos, 2003, etc.). Eight years younger than his brother J. Robert, the father of the atomic bomb, Frank was also a physicist but differed in having a common touch, a cheerful, outgoing personality and, unlike his theoretician brother, great mechanical skills. He helped develop the cyclotron and participated in the Manhattan project. Like Robert, he sympathized with communist causes during the 1930s and suffered for it during the McCarthy era, when the University of Minnesota forced him to resign in 1949 and no other university would hire him. Taking his family to rural Colorado, he spent ten years raising cattle but also revealed a genius for teaching. By the late '50s, students at his obscure high school regularly won the state science fair. As his reputation spread, he began holding classes for teachers and finally rejoined academia at the University of Colorado in 1961. Oppenheimer soon discovered that teaching science fascinated him more than the new, high-pressure world of postwar physics. In 1967 he moved to San Francisco to put his ideas into practice. Employing boundless energy and charm and influential friends, he established the Exploratorium, whose imaginative approach has transformed museums around the world. Science and cold-war politics occupy less than half the book, which emphasizes the struggle to build the museum and keep it running while hewing to Oppenheimer's goal of combining art and science in ingenious, often hands-on exhibits. A sympathetic tribute to a brilliant physicist whogave up research to inspire a love for science in laymen.