Leslie Groves

Leslie Groves & Vannevar Bush, Atomic Bomb Leaders Tied Together in One Letter



Leslie Groves & Vannevar Bush, Atomic Bomb Leaders Tied Together in One Letter

 

“It is a hard job to write a book...but the principal reward is when some friend tells me that it was worth doing.”

 

Typed Letter Signed, to Leslie R. Groves Jr., January 4, 1968. 1 p., 8" x 10.5". Very good.

 

Excerpt

“I showed your nice letter of 26 November about my book to Helen King of the William Morrow Company, and now she tells me she would like to quote from it in some connection. I wonder if you would mind if this occurred? She is trying to get it used in schools, and I think she may have some success.”

[Groves in margin:] “OK”

 

“I certainly appreciated that letter. It is a hard job to write a book, as you well know, but the principal reward is when some friend tells me that it was worth doing.”

 

Historical Background

In 1967, Vannevar Bush published Science is Not Enough with the William Morrow Company of New York. A reviewer described the book: “Like the career of its illustrious author, the volume before us has a scope, a breadth, and a depth that are nothing short of prodigious.” The book, at only 192 pages, consisted of ten essays on a wide range of topics. The same reviewer declared, “Every page sparkles with some flash of humor, some gem of wisdom, some penetrating barb at human foibles, softened by the kindly phrase that reveals the author’s sympathetic understanding of human nature.”

 

In one passage in Science in Not Enough, Bush writes, “Science proves nothing absolutely. On the most vital questions, it does not even produce evidence.” He continues, “But is all the labor of science vain to the thinker, the seeker after a sure harbor, amid the mystery, evil, cruelty, majesty, that surrounds us? By no means. Science here does two things. It renders us humble. And it paints a universe in which the mysteries become highlighted, in which constraints on imagination and speculation have been removed....”

 

 

Vannevar Bush (1890-1973) was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Tufts University in 1913 with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in science. He received a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University in 1916. He taught at MIT from 1922 to 1932, when he became vice president and dean of the school of engineering. During the 1920s, Bush patented several inventions related to electricity that made him wealthy. In 1939, he became president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington and later that year of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. In 1940, Bush proposed a National Defense Research Committee to enhance communication between civilian scientists and the military. President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved the idea with Bush as chairman. In June 1941, Roosevelt created the successor Office of Scientific Research and Development, again with Bush as director. Bush played a critical role in persuading the U.S. government to develop an atomic bomb. He was present at the Trinity nuclear test in July 1945 and advocated the use of the atomic bomb against Japan. His “As We May Think” article published in 1945 proposed a form of augmented memory that was a major influence on later developers of the computer mouse and of hypertext and hypermedia. With the end of the Office of Scientific Research and Development in 1947, Bush advocated for a peacetime organization, which led to the creation of the National Science Foundation in 1950.

 

Leslie R. Groves Jr. (1896-1970) was a United States Army General with the Corps of Engineers who oversaw the construction of the Pentagon and directed the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb during World War II. Born in New York to a Protestant pastor who became an army chaplain, Groves graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1918 in a course shortened because of World War I. He entered the Corps of Engineers and gained promotions to major by 1940. In 1941, he was charged with overseeing the construction of the Pentagon, the largest office building in the world, with more than five million square feet. Disappointed that he had not received a combat assignment, Groves instead took charge of the Manhattan Project, designed to develop an atomic bomb. He continued nominally to supervise the Pentagon project to avoid suspicion, gained promotion to brigadier general, and began his work in September 1942. The project headquarters was initially in the War Department building in Washington, but in August 1943, moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He and physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer selected the site in Los Alamos, New Mexico, for a laboratory, and Groves pushed successfully for Oppenheimer to be placed in charge. Groves was in charge of obtaining critical uranium ores internationally and collecting military intelligence on Axis atomic research. Promoted to major general in March 1944, Groves received the Distinguished Service Medal for his work on the Manhattan Project after the war. In 1947, Groves became chief of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. He received a promotion to lieutenant general in January 1948, just days before meeting with Army Chief of Staff Dwight D. Eisenhower, who reviewed a long list of complaints against Groves. Assured that he would not become Chief of Engineers, Groves retired in February 1948. From 1948 to 1961, he was a vice president of Sperry Rand, an equipment and electronics firm. After retirement, he served as president of the West Point alumni association and wrote a book on the Manhattan Project, published in 1962.

 

Ex. Leslie Groves Family, Christies Auction.

 



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Item: 65829

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