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The Pontecorvo AffairA Cold War Defection and Nuclear Physics$
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Simone Turchetti

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780226816647

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226816661.001.0001

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Play It Up or Down? Confronting the Pontecorvo Affair

Play It Up or Down? Confronting the Pontecorvo Affair

(p.119) 5 Play It Up or Down? Confronting the Pontecorvo Affair
The Pontecorvo Affair
University of Chicago Press

This chapter reveals that the inquiries which followed Bruno Pontecorvo's flight and typified the case were influenced by two opposing tendencies that combined to greatly decrease their efficacy. On one side, British diplomats and intelligence personnel sought to play down the whole case, so the investigations on Pontecorvo's flight to Russia were never prioritized. On the other, some journalists theorized on his past and present activities, indicating that he was an atom spy. The Joint Committee on Atomic Espionage portrayal of Pontecorvo's defection emphasized its dangers. Pontecorvo played a key role in the development of applied nuclear research, and had also been an atom spy for a long time. The conflicting interpretations by journalists and government officers gave substance to the portraits of him—the notorious spy and the clumsy defector—that have existed side by side for the last fifty years.

Keywords:   atom spy, Bruno Pontecorvo, Russia, Atomic Espionage, applied nuclear research, clumsy defector, notorious spy

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