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Tuxedo Park : A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That…

de Jennet Conant

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630730,278 (3.52)4
The untold story of an eccentric Wall Street tycoon and the circle of scientific geniuses he assembled before World War II to develop the science for radar and the atomic bomb. Together they changed the course of history. Legendary financier, philanthropist, and society figure Alfred Lee Loomis gathered the most visionary scientific minds of the twentieth century--Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, and others--at his state-of-the-art laboratory in Tuxedo Park, New York, in the late 1930s. He established a top-secret defense laboratory at MIT and personally bankrolled pioneering research into new, high-powered radar detection systems that helped defeat the German Air Force and U-boats. With Ernest Lawrence, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, he pushed Franklin Delano Roosevelt to fund research in nuclear fission, which led to the development of the atomic bomb. Jennet Conant, the granddaughter of James Bryant Conant, one of the leading scientific advisers of World War II, enjoyed unprecedented access to Loomis' papers, as well as to people intimately involved in his life and work. She pierces through Loomis' obsessive secrecy and illuminates his role in assuring the Allied victory.… (més)
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5665. Tuxedo Park A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II, by Jennet Conant (read 20 Dec 2019) This book was published in 2002 . I had it and it is essentially a biography of Alfred Loomis, of whom I had never heard. But I decided to read it since I had it on my 'shelves'. Loomis, after making much money on Wall Street, had a place in Tuxedo Park, New York (about 45 miles northwest of New York City) where he invited scientists to work in his well-equipped laboratory. Work related to the development of radar and of the atomic bomb was done there amd Loomis encouraged and financed the work. The book did not always entrance me and only after I had finished it did I come to have a better opinion of the book. Brian Lamb interviewed the author on 25 Apr 2002 and his interview is on the computer and I watched it after I read the book and was impressed by the author and her knowledge and the work she did to write the book. She is a granddaughter of James Conant , who was president of Harvard for twenty years and worked in connection with the production of the atomic bomb. So I have come to be more impressed by the book on reflection than I was while reading it and anyone interested in the development of radar or the atomic bomb will find the book informative and of interest. ( )
  Schmerguls | Dec 21, 2019 |
My rating for Tuxedo Park is based less on literary merit than personal impact. Why after all, do we read books?

For me the gift came in Chapter 12, Last of the Great Amateurs, when Conant describes the successful use of the Alvarez's MEW (Microwave Early Warning) on D-Day. I read this chapter the day after I'd received notice from a 2nd cousin who is the "Primary Next of Kin" in this announcement ( https://www.dpaa.mil/News-Stories/News-Releases/PressReleaseArticleView/Article/... ) from the DPAA, that my DNA had contributed to identify William McGowan (my father's first cousin's) remains. They were close, my dad and Bill, roommates at Missouri.

I'll let this "Note to Paul" stand for my review: http://mcgowans.org/pubs/family/Note_toPaul.html

And, as this was a book club reading, I wasn't particularly looking forward to reading it, since we were introduced to Loomis thru "Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention that Launched the Military-Industrial Complex.". I was taken to Loomis by his ability to stay in the background throughout his days at Tuxedo Park, in Washington and Berkeley, and then gracefully move off stage when the war was won. ( )
  applemcg | May 31, 2019 |
He's a Wall Street tycoon, a brilliant scientific mind, and an inventor of devices and instruments used by the military to defeat the forces of evil.

No, he's not Tony Stark; he's Alfred Lee Loomis, and his work helped bring down the Nazis and win World War II. And yet, you're unlikely to find a lot of information on Loomis in the history books. A businessman turned scientist, he was one step up from a dilettante among scientists, possessing the abilities to understand and to cultivate scientific research in his top of the line, skunk-works lab that he built on his property in the decades preceding World War II. His rise was remarkable for the seeming ease with which he accomplished every task before him.

Prior to the war, Loomis built a fortune as a Wall Street investor selling bonds for the incipient utilities industry. As the market began to bubble, Loomis recognized the signs of instability, and divested his holdings in utilities. Then as the crash of 1929 rolled the country, he earned even more through careful investing, growing his fortune at a time when others were ruined. By the time the 1930s were closing, Loomis had been able to leave business with a fortune that put him in the upper echelons of society in America, while at the same time allowing him to pursue his true interest, scientific research. As World War II began, and the Nazi menace spread, Loomis joined a nationwide network of scientists working to develop technologies that would help defeat Germany and its allies.

Loomis' story is remarkable, but in many ways felt lacking largely because of the lack of tension or obstacle. Written by a descendent, Tuxedo Park (the location of the laboratory Loomis built) feels like a long Wall Street Journal article, where quotations are given with the expectation that they will appear in the press and facts are presented dispassionately. In short, the story lacks narrative, a sense of progress. Loomis appears on the scene--whatever the scene may be-- and sua sponte achieves his aims. As one friend suggested while discussing the book, there's not many obstacles that can't be overcome, apparently, if you're both brilliant and filthy stinking rich. Especially rich.

And yet, wealth is no excuse for a flat story. Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill also came from means, rising from wealthy families, but both would overcome great obstacles during their life to create biographies that beg to be told. If Loomis has that story, I found this one to be lacking in that regards. While I'm glad to have learned a new chapter of the World War II saga, I don't know that I would have missed not reading it. ( )
  publiusdb | May 23, 2016 |
This is a fascinating biography of Alfred Loomis. It goes into a fair amount of detail on the technical aspects of his work, which might leave some feeling a bit overwhelmed. However, the story of his involvement in critical research during WWII is well worth the effort. ( )
  grandpahobo | Sep 24, 2015 |
Tuxedo Park is primarily a biography of Alfred Loomis. He is one of those characters of history who was better known at the time, and deserves to be better known to history than he is. The book covers his dual careers on Wall Street and as a scientist. (He was good at both.) Loomis was very wealthy, and in the 1930s he operated his home as a private science laboratory. He had a significant role in the Radiation Lab at MIT, which developed and refined radar into an effective weapon during World War II. Loomis invented and had the patent for Loran (the long-range navigation system predecessor to GPS). On the plus side, the author had some family connections to the events in the book, which obviously inspired the book, and opened doors to her research. On the minus side, the narrative is a bit flat and tedious after a while. Parts of the book seem a rote recitation of chronology. The book lacks technical detail which I would have found interesting, but it is accessible to general readers, and has a lot of general human interest, including a lot of famous people. Loomis knew everybody in science and government, it seems. Given how interesting the topic is, and the author's inside access, this book is very disappointing. ( )
  AJ_Mexico | Jan 8, 2014 |
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The untold story of an eccentric Wall Street tycoon and the circle of scientific geniuses he assembled before World War II to develop the science for radar and the atomic bomb. Together they changed the course of history. Legendary financier, philanthropist, and society figure Alfred Lee Loomis gathered the most visionary scientific minds of the twentieth century--Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, and others--at his state-of-the-art laboratory in Tuxedo Park, New York, in the late 1930s. He established a top-secret defense laboratory at MIT and personally bankrolled pioneering research into new, high-powered radar detection systems that helped defeat the German Air Force and U-boats. With Ernest Lawrence, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, he pushed Franklin Delano Roosevelt to fund research in nuclear fission, which led to the development of the atomic bomb. Jennet Conant, the granddaughter of James Bryant Conant, one of the leading scientific advisers of World War II, enjoyed unprecedented access to Loomis' papers, as well as to people intimately involved in his life and work. She pierces through Loomis' obsessive secrecy and illuminates his role in assuring the Allied victory.

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