14 October 2007

American Prometheuses

My husband is taking a class in project management. He has to do a speech about the Manhattan Project and apply the project management ideas he is learning in class to the Manhattan Project. I'm not taking the class, but I'm not sure this is such a good idea. Why take a modern perspective of things and superimpose it on something that happened a generation before most of the people in the class were even born? Seems to invite unfair criticism and put a revisionist spin on things. It's like reading the bible sitting in our comfortable houses with running water and electricity and not placing things in context.

The whole Manhattan Project thing made me think of J. Robert Oppenheimer and what a complex character he was. Brilliant theoretical physicist, but possibly too distracted to reach his full potential. One time Communist. A Hindu Jew. Father of the Atomic Bomb, but at times seemingly conflicted about his involvement in the Nuclear Age. Beloved professor. Mistrusted friend and colleague. Famous for misquoting Hindu scripture when he said of his nuclear involvement,
"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

But, someone who has curiously been the recipient of revisionist history is Margaret Sanger.

Championed as the founder of what was to become Planned Parenthood, many people today are unaware of her racist ideas and support of eugenics.

I found it interesting that she, like some other current hollywood types, threatened to leave the country if Kennedy was elected president. From wiki:

During the 1960 presidential elections, Sanger was dismayed by candidate John F. Kennedy's position on birth control (Kennedy did not believe birth control should be a matter of government policy). She threatened to leave the country if Kennedy were elected, but evidently reconsidered after Kennedy won the election.

Maybe Oppenheimer's misquoted quote was addressing the wrong person.


gemoftheocean said...

Well, if in the Manhattan project they were trying to see if such a nuclear weapon could be produced, I'd say that "project managementwise" they completed the task.

"Surely, you're Joking, Mr. Feyneman" might provide some fun insight. And I agree, revisionist history isn't such a hot thing.

It's amazing how many people don't know about Sanger's hatred of immigrant poor who were the real focus of her wish to eliminate "undesireables." Some time back I was reading where one of her books was to be put into the public domain, it having passed the copyright protection. Planned Parenthood was terrified of it being circulated in prolife circles, due to the very bald admissions of hers that she held strong views on the racial superiority of those descended from northern europeans. It's clear she despised blacks and other racial minorities along with those from eastern and southern europe.

I'll dig around and see if I can come up with the title.

swissmiss said...

One of the things in the project management class is life-cycle management and since the MP ended in 1946, that should've been the period at the end of the sentence...supposedly. But, we are still cleaning up after the MP today (hubby's group chose the MP because the company hubby works for has a contract to make robots to help clean up the leftovers (my take on things). They are posing that the MP is still on-going in some respects after all these years.

Yes, MS would've done away with all the Irish and Italians, not to mention the others she is known to have a distaste for. Too bad she and Hannibal Lector never met up since I don't think he had a distaste for anyone.

gemoftheocean said...

Ah--that makes sense why they chose the MP, given what your hubby's company does. [Can we bury the stuff in Pakistan? Never mind....]

*ooo/* what a delicious remark vis a vis Lecto and Sanger!

I hadn't realized she lived as long as she did. Doubtless, you've read "Cheaper by the Dozen." I remember the little vignette where a certain "Nrs. Mebane" was sent to the Gilbreth household to see if Mrs. Gilbreath was interested in heading up the local chapter of Planned Parenthood. Ever since I read that book I've always looked for things about motion study.