J. Robert Oppenheimer and Ernest Lawrence were worthy of a dual biography. Oppenheimer and Edward Teller will be forever intertwined. So why haven’t Oppenheimer and Alan Turing been joined at the hip? Both were brilliant pathfinders — Turing in mathematics, Oppenheimer in physics. Their actions shortened World War II, saving countless lives — Turing because of his code-breaking skills, Oppenheimer by leading the Manhattan Project’s work at Los Alamos. Both were tragic figures. Turing’s homosexuality was criminalized, leading to his suicide. The British government never came to his rescue for services rendered. Oppenheimer was done in by his friendships before the war, and by his reservations about the Bomb afterward. Seeking to remain an influential insider, he left himself vulnerable to losing his clearances, thereby being cut off at the knees. Both belatedly received tributes from their nations after their unbearable public rebukes – Oppenheimer while dying from cancer, Turing posthumously.
I was spellbound watching Derek Jacoby play Turing in “Breaking the Code” at a theater in London’s West End in 1986. How could anyone do better than his stuttering portrayal? I stand corrected. Give yourself a treat and watch Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch play Turing in “The Imitation Game.”