Science & Nature

Martin J. Sherwin, Pulitzer-winning scholar, lifeless at 84

FILE - In this Monday, April 17, 2006, file photo, author Martin J. Sherwin, poses for a photo in Washington. Sherwin, a leading scholar of atomic weapons who in
1of5FILE – In this Monday, April 17, 2006, file picture, creator Martin J. Sherwin, poses for a photograph in Washington. Sherwin, a number one scholar of atomic weapons who in “A World Destroyed” challenged assist for the U.S. bombing of Japan and spent greater than 20 years researching the pioneering physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer for the Pulitzer Prize-winning “American Prometheus,” has died at age 84. Sherwin died Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at his residence in Washington, D.C., in line with his buddy Andrew Hartman, a professor of historical past at Illinois State University.Manuel Balce Ceneta
FILE - In this April 17, 2006, file photo, co-authors Kai Bird, left, and Martin J. Sherwin, right, hold a copy of the book they wrote
2of5FILE – In this April 17, 2006, file picture, co-authors Kai Bird, left, and Martin J. Sherwin, proper, maintain a replica of the ebook they wrote “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer,” in Washington. Sherwin, a number one scholar of atomic weapons who in “A World Destroyed” challenged assist for the U.S. bombing of Japan and spent greater than 20 years researching the pioneering physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer for the Pulitzer Prize-winning “American Prometheus,” has died at age 84. Sherwin died Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at his residence in Washington, D.C., in line with his buddy Andrew Hartman, a professor of historical past at Illinois State University.Manuel Balce Ceneta
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FILE - In this March 3, 2006, file photo, Martin J. Sherwin, left, speaks as Kai Bird stands by after Sherwin and Bird's
4of5FILE – In this March 3, 2006, file picture, Martin J. Sherwin, left, speaks as Kai Bird stands by after Sherwin and Bird’s “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” gained the prize for biography on the NBCC awards ceremony in New York. Sherwin, a number one scholar of atomic weapons who in “A World Destroyed” challenged assist for the U.S. bombing of Japan and spent greater than 20 years researching the pioneering physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer for the Pulitzer Prize-winning “American Prometheus,” has died at age 84. Sherwin died Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at his residence in Washington, D.C.Tina Fineberg
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NEW YORK (AP) — Martin J. Sherwin, a number one scholar of atomic weapons who in “A World Destroyed” challenged assist for the U.S. bombing of Japan and spent greater than 20 years researching the pioneering physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer for the Pulitzer Prize-winning “American Prometheus,” has died.

Sherwin died Wednesday at his residence in Washington, D.C., in line with his buddy Andrew Hartman, a professor of historical past at Illinois State University. He was 84 and had been battling lung most cancers. Kai Bird, a detailed buddy and the co-author of “American Prometheus,” known as him “in all probability the preeminent historian of the nuclear age.”

“When we began engaged on ‘American Prometheus’ he advised me he had plenty of analysis, however a couple of gaps,” Bird advised The Associated Press on Saturday. “When I started going via all of the supplies I couldn’t discover any gaps.”

Sherwin was a New York City native whose curiosity in nuclear analysis dated again to his undergraduate years at Dartmouth College, when he spent a summer time working at a uranium mine out West. Sherwin’s ties to the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union turned frighteningly private in the course of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis,. He was a junior officer within the Navy and was advised of plans to evacuate from their base in San Diego to a distant location in Baja California, Mexico.

“The rationale was to disperse army plane past the attain of Soviet missiles,” he wrote in “Gambling With Armageddon: Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis,” which got here out final 12 months. “Some junior officers — all of us bachelors — joked that the seashores of Baja ‘can be a pleasant place to die.’”

He was finest recognized for “American Prometheus,” revealed in 2005 and winner of the Pulitzer for biography. The ebook was broadly praised as a complete and invaluable examine of the so-called “father of the atomic bomb” who later had his telephones tapped and his safety clearance revoked in the course of the McCarthy period of the Fifties as he advocated nuclear containment and opposed the event of the hydrogen bomb.

Sherwin started engaged on the ebook within the late Seventies with an hours-long horseback journey to the mountainside ranch in New Mexico the place Oppenheimer as soon as lived. He continued over the subsequent 20 years as he amassed tens of hundreds of pages of analysis, from FBI recordsdata to personal correspondence to interviews with those that knew Oppenheimer. Bird, whom he had befriended within the Nineties and finally introduced in to assist, joked that Sherwin had come down with “biographer’s illness,” the lack to know when it was time to cease researching and start writing.

Pulitzer judges cited Sherwin and Bird for his or her “wealthy evocation of America at midcentury” and known as “American Prometheus” a “new and compelling portrait of an excellent, bold, complicated and flawed man profoundly linked to its main occasions — the Depression, World War II and the Cold War.”

Sherwin was additionally a well-liked trainer and lecturer who taught at Princeton University, George Mason University and, for a lot of his profession, Tufts University, the place he based the Nuclear Age History Center. At Princeton, he was an adviser to the author-journalist Eric Schlosser and mentored Katrina vanden Heuvel, now editorial director and writer of the liberal weekly The Nation, for which Sherwin was a contributor.

Sherwin’s first ebook, “A World Destroyed: Hiroshima and Its Legacies,” got here out in 1975 and was a Pulitzer finalist. The New York Times praised the ebook for its unprecedented scholarship on such questions as whether or not the U.S. wanted nuclear weapons to defeat Japan in World War II (Sherwin contended President Truman’s determination to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki was primarily based extra on intimidating the Russians) and why the U.S. selected to not share its nuclear improvement with the Soviet Union once they had been World War II allies.

In the mid-Nineties, Sherwin was among the many advisers for a deliberate Smithsonian exhibit in regards to the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing of Japan that was canceled after veterans organizations and dozens of members of Congress objected to what they thought-about an anti-U.S. bias. Instead, the Smithsonian solely displayed the Enola Gay, the airplane from which the U.S. dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima.

“In the United States, the collective reminiscence of World War II sees the struggle as ‘our most interesting hour,’” he wrote in a 2003 version of “A World Destroyed.”

“America with out that picture is unimaginable to most members of the era that fought the struggle and to these in subsequent generations who’ve outlined their view of the world and their political lives as a reflections of this picture.”

According to Kai Bird, he and Sherwin had been engaged on a proposal for a brand new ebook regardless that he was badly weakened by his most cancers remedy. Sherwin wished to inform the extraordinary however true story of a crew of B-29 bombers who had been captured off the coast of Japan on the finish of World War II and saved from execution by an English-speaking Japanese commander who introduced them to Hiroshima so they may see for themselves the devastation from the just lately dropped atom bomb.

“He had been sitting on his story for a really very long time, again to 1975 when he interviewed one of many B-29 crew members,” Bird mentioned. “He was actually enthusiastic about this, and I’m attempting to see if I can flip this right into a ebook proposal. On the day he died he was modifying that proposal. Even as his physique was giving out, he was nonetheless and his thoughts was alert.”

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