A black-and-white photo from the film Oppenheimer, depicting a hearing.
Still from Oppenheimer Credit: Universal Pictures

Thanks to Reader reader Anthony Gargiulo Jr., who read this story about Chicago connections to Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer film and pointed out via Twitter another one: former Loyola University (and Northwestern University) chemistry professor Ward V. Evans.

Evans was the surprise dissenting vote on the three-man panel that recommended permanent suspension of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s security clearance during the 1950s McCarthy-era “Red Scare.”

Oppenheimer had been accused of being a communist at a time when guilt by association was guilt enough to ruin a career.

Evans, at that point an elderly advisor to what is now the Loyola Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, appears briefly (played by John Gowans) in the film—a singular presence among a rabid clutch of panel members and interrogators during the claustrophobic 1954 hearing. A story at the Loyola University College of Arts and Sciences website notes that when he died three years later, the Washington Post, which described Evans as “conservative in his politics” (i.e., appointed because he was expected to vote against Oppenheimer), said his “pungent” dissent “stands as a model of clarity and common sense.” Here’s a link to the Loyola story

And if (like me) you’re now hooked on this important chunk of history, here’s a link to a fascinating insider analysis of the Oppenheimer case by someone who was very much there—former Atomic Energy Commission lawyer Harold P. Green. Posted by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, it was originally published by them in 1977, when, as Green wrote then, he first felt free to tell all.